The Newtown Pentacle

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Remember, remember the fourteenth of September.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One word before I delve into the usual narrative here – I was attacked by friggin Grasshoppers while in pursuit of some of the images in today’s post. Grasshoppers, as in a biblical plague like swarm of giant bugs flying at me with murder on their minds – a gang of grasshoppers in friggin Long Island City.

It occurs, since these shots were largely collected on the 11th of September, that there are certain calendrical markers which loom large in the collective mind. Unfortunately, these events tend to reflect recent history, whereas other moments which were once considered to be of maximum importance are forgotten. September 11th will be remembered for the events of 2001, of course, but what about September the 14th?

On this day in 326 A.D., Emperor Constantine the Great’s mom Helena (Helena was the Augusta Imperatrix) is said to have recovered a piece of the True Cross in Palestine, as well as finding the site of the burning bush and a few other odds and ends. She’s a Saint now, the Augusta Imperatrix.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Even on the day of the attacks, I mentioned to the little gaggle of refugees who had gathered at my home office in Upper Manhattan that it would be just a matter of two to three decades before Sept. 11th became a legal holiday of national remembrance like Labor Day. Within five to six decades, it would lose its significance, like Labor Day or Veterans Day have. Future generations would figure their vacations around the week between Labor Day and what will likely be called Remembrance Day, and there would be sales at retailers. It’s crass, but that’s the American way.

In 1741, George Frideric Handel’s oratorio “Messiah” was completed on this day.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

When I was out wandering around on the 11th in Long Island City, it was somewhat forefront in my mind that I wanted to get an uncommon shot of the Freedom Tower from Newtown Creek, which is why I was wandering around in spots which are normally avoided due to fear of arrest for trespassing. The shot above overlooks the DB Cabin railroad bridge and the mouth of Dutch Kills, incidentally.

In 1812, an antichrist named Napoleon marched the Grand Armée of France into the City of Moscow on September 14th.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Have to admit – I was actually enjoying the day, and the solitude, for once. I love conducting my Newtown Creek tours on the weekends, bringing people to the crazy places I know around the Creek and reciting the historical trivia, but it does get in the way of me doing “my thing” with the camera. Having a Sunday off for once, the headphones were stuck into my ears and I spent several happy hours listening to my collection of HP Lovecraft audio books. In particular – the Horror at Red Hook, The Outsider, The Thing on the Doorstep, and The Shunned House were in rotation last week. Pictured above is the Cabin M rail bridge over Dutch Kills.

In 1901, President William McKinley died. The President was shot by an anarchist on Sept. 6th, and it was gangrene that ended up doing him in. McKinley’s Vice President, Theodore Roosevelt, succeeded him.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It was while I was crouched down to get the shot above that the Grasshoppers grew angry at me, and hundreds of chitin clad bullets suddenly erupted from the brush. While I was flailing about in the buzzing crowd, a cramp developed in my left arm and one of my “spells” came upon me. I must’ve been laying on the tracks crying for a good half hour, cursing the fact that I hadn’t decided on studio photography rather than urban landscape. The horror…

On Sept. 14th in 1959, a Soviet built probe called “Luna 2” crashed into the moon, making it the first man made object to reach the satellite.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Scarred by the insect attack, I decided “enough” and headed for home back in Astoria. I was hungry, desired an alcoholic beverage to steel myself after the grasshopper incident, and was working out how to exact my revenge on the horde of exoskeletal bastards who had harrassed me. Astoria? Only primates, dogs, cats, and rats live in Astoria. Ok, we’ve got possums and raccoons too, but you catch my drift. We ain’t got grasshoppers.

In 1715, the French monk Dom Pérignon died on September 14th, and in 1836 – so did Aaron Burr. In the United States, September 14th is “National Eat a Hoagie day.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Be back tomorrow with some other drivel and a bunch of pix.

If you’re not doing anything after work tomorrow, I’ll be narrating on the Brooklyn Waterfront Boat Tour for the Working Harbor Committee, along with Capt. Maggie Flanagan of Waterfront Alliance. Come with? We’re boarding at Wall Street/Pier 11 at 5:30 and the weather is meant to be bloody brilliant. Link below for tix.

Upcoming tours and events:


“Brooklyn Waterfront – Past & Present” boat tour
with Working Harbor Committee, Thursday, September 15th from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m.
Click here for tickets.


“13 Steps around Dutch Kills” walking tour
with Atlas Obscura, Sunday, September 18th from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Click here for tickets.


“First Calvary Cemetery” walking tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, Saturday, October 8th from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Click here for tickets.


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I been everywhere, man.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator is fully “back in action” after a long hermitage. In the last seven days – I’ve conducted three walking tours of the Newtown Creek watershed, visited the Kosciuszko Bridge construction project, attended and partcipated in a Working Harbor Committee tour, and have also found myself cathechizing elected officialdom about the dangers of CSO’s (Combined Sewer Outfalls). I also shot and developed a few hundred photos, and you’ll be seeing some of them over the next few days.

I also got to take the most photogenic of NYC’s subway lines the other day, which is the IRT Flushing or 7 line, as evinced by the shot above.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Two of my walking tours last week were private affairs, and involved exposing groups of students to LIC. I brought the kids down the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek, then along the main stem of the Creek itself, and we eventually ended up along the East River waterfront in Hunters Point.

The counterpoints between “America’s Workshop” and the “Modern Corridor” are jarring, and seeing the post industrial section contrasted with the gentrified residential sections really seemed to hit home with them. I love taking out groups of students, incidentally, as ultimately our world will be theirs someday, and they have to start thinking up the solutions to the colossal mess we’re going to be leaving behind.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Funnily enough, what with all the running around, I ended up walking close to forty miles last week as I scuttled around from place to place. This weekend, I’ve got another private group tour on Saturday, but on Sunday there’s a free event I’m helping to conduct with my colleague Will Elkins from Newtown Creek Alliance. Details are found below for attending the “North Henry Street Project,” which will meet up at 11 a.m on the corner of Kingsland and Norman Avenues in Greenpoint.

This one is part of the citywide MAS Janeswalk event, and I’m hoping you can come along and check out the plans NCA has been concocting for the “Unnamed Canal,” a minor tributary of Newtown Creek.

Upcoming Events and Tours

Sunday, May 8th at 11 a.m. – North Henry Street Project,
with Municipal Arts Society Janeswalk and Newtown Creek Alliance,
in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Click here for more details.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

May 2, 2016 at 1:30 pm

viewless aura

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Blissville, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Blissville, for those of you not in the know, is the section of Long Island City which the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge connects to. One refers to this area as DUGABO – Down Under the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge Onramp – as I like to stay ahead of the Real Estate Guys on this sort of thing. DUGABO is an M1 zone, meaning that it is zoned for heavy industry. A couple of blocks to the north, it becomes a “mixed use” zone, and there’s a scattered series of homes and commercial storefronts in the area – a lot of the building stock actually dates back to the 19th century.

The LIRR trackways run along the coast of Newtown Creek, and you’ll find several bits of railroad infrastructure along the shoreline. In focus today, the Blissville Yard, which has found new occupation.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Blissville Yard is a series of trackways designed for storage of rolling stock. It connects to the Hunters Point tracks via a rail bridge that crosses Dutch Kills, and there used to be a connection to the Sunnyside Yards and the Degnon terminal railway spurs via the Montauk Cutoff which is no longer an active track. The modern use of the Blissville Yard is governed by the New York and Atlantic company, which is a private corporation that handles freight services for the Long Island Railroad. If you see a black and emerald colored engine operating along the LIRR tracks, that’s them.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Not too long ago, the Waste Management company, which enjoys a profitable relationship with NYC’s Department of Sanitation, opened a new facility on the Queens side of the Newtown Creek. Waste Management handles the exit from our municipality of the putrescent or “black bag” garbage collected by the municipal DSNY. The company has been operating for several years out of an enormous facility on Varick Street in what should be called Bushwick, but is referred to in modernity as East Williamsburg.

At Varick Street, Waste Management and New York and Atlantic operate the so called “garbage train” along the Bushwick Branch of the LIRR. Now, in Queens, they are operating another garbage train out of the Blissville Yard and the newish Review Avenue Waste Transfer Station – which is across the street from Calvary Cemetery. Those green box cars in the shot above?

That’s the Garbage Train.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

DUGABO proper, the street where you’ll find the at grade crossings for the garbage train is appropriately called Railroad Avenue. To the west, you’ll find the Blissville Yard and the SimsMetal company. SimsMetal handles the recyclable materials collected by DSNY and others. To the east, you’ll find other new arrivals (new as in the last decade, which isn’t even yesterday to “historian me”) like Waste Managements “Green Asphalt” facility.

This little roadway alongside the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge has become a locus point for heavy trucks, literally thousands of heavy trucks loaded down with garbage, on a daily basis.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The putrescent waste is processed at Waste Management, and loaded into these green boxes, which are then positioned onto rail cars. The garbage train(s) proceed eastward to the Fresh Pond yard. From Fresh Pond, they begin a long and circuitous journey which sees them leave Long Island via the Hell Gate Bridge and head north through the the Bronx via the Owls Head yard. Leaving NYC, they head most of the way to Albany, where another rail bridge allows them to cross the Hudson and enter the continent. Where they go after that seems to be a state secret, although I’ve been told that there are a series of tapped out coal mines in Pennsylvania and West Virginia which are gradually being filled back up.

Future archaeologists are going to love us, I tell you.

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Twirling, ever twirling.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The affability of recent climate has seen me visiting old haunts and novel locale alike in recent weeks, which might be described as having been a somewhat pleasurable set of experiences. That would mean, of course, that your humble narrator was actually capable of experiencing a sensation called “pleasure.” A series of dull events punctuated by occasional gastro-intestinal distress, all sorts of bacterial and viral infections, and the oft bizarre actions of others is the way one such as myself describes “Life.”

One bright spark in the otherwise gathering clouds of existential horror which plague me are unexpected moments of serendipity.

A train passing by can excite one endlessly, and reminds that “you have to appreciate the little things.”

In my case, it’s big things that go “thruuummmm thruuuuuuummmm thruuummmm” or “claaacckkclaaacckkclaaacckk” as they pass by, but I’m all ‘effed up.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Good days are ones where I’m not walking to go anyplace in particular. Days when I leave the house and decide only which compass point to walk toward. For some reason, its not east that often, as that’s usually looking into the light. Instinct always points my path towards water, no matter where I am. It was kind of interesting finding myself in Queens Plaza, which I used to inhabit back in 2009 and 2010 during the Queensboro Bridge Centennial period but which I mainly cross through these days on my way to someplace in Brooklyn or Hunters Point.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Luckily, Our Lady of the Pentacle had agreed to visit the Brooklyn Grange roof top farm here in Astoria with a friend of ours who subscribes to their CSA program and I tagged along. While they picked up some quality produce, I got busy with the camera. Serendipity at work, when I woke up that morning, seeing this vista overlooking the Sunnyside Yards and the Shining City of Manhattan was not on the menu.

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Titus, Paulo, and Ronald in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve been hunting around in my archives a bit lately, looking for shots that might have gotten buried. I’m pretty prolific, it would seem, and when you add up all the shots produced just for Newtown Pentacle and Working Harbor Committee – the numbers approach staggering. Not bragging or anything, 50% or more are dross crap, just stating that there are so many shots that some cool ones get buried and forgotten.

Just like the Roman Saint, Titus, and today’s his feast day.

from wikipedia

Titus was an early Christian leader, a companion and disciple of Paul the Apostle, mentioned in several of the Pauline epistles. He is believed to be a gentile converted by Paul to Christianity and, according to tradition, was consecrated by him as Bishop of the Island of Crete. Titus brought a fundraising letter from Paul to Corinth, to collect for the poor in Jerusalem. Later, on Crete, Titus appointed presbyters in every city and remained there into his old age, dying in the city of Candia (modern Heraklion).

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Some shots didn’t fit into a particular narrative, and got set aside for future usage. Some were difficult to explain, or required so detailed a set of prerequisite explanations that it was difficult to fit them into a post.

Sort of like the Japanese Saint, Paulo Miki, who is also remembered on February 6th.

from wikipedia

Paulo Miki was born into a wealthy Japanese family. He was educated by the Jesuits in Azuchi and Takatsuki. He joined the Society of Jesus and became a well known and successful preacher – gaining numerous converts to Catholicism. The Japanese daimyo, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, fearful of the Jesuit’s influence and intentions began persecuting Catholics. Miki was jailed, along with others. He and his fellow Catholics were forced to march 600 miles (966 kilometers) from Kyoto to Nagasaki; all the while singing the Te Deum. On arriving in Nagasaki, the city with the largest Catholic population in Japan, Miki was crucified on February 5, 1597. He preached his last sermon from the cross, and it is maintained that he forgave his executioners, stating that he himself was Japanese.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Others convey subject matter with which one does not want to delve too deeply into, as it leads directly into a complicated minefield of political issues. Such reportage is the purview of others, as it would require listening to and interacting with the humans, something which both repels and terrifies one such as myself. The humans are unpredictable, and engage in bizarre behavior.

Such as commemorating a feast day for the American Saint, Ronald.

from wikipedia

Ronald Reagan Day is a day of recognition that occurs every February 6, starting in 2011, in the state of California for Ronald Reagan, who was that state’s Governor from 1967–1975 and President of the United States from 1981–1989.

Ronald Reagan Day has also been declared a state holiday in Wisconsin. For the 100th anniversary of Reagan’s birthday in 2011, governors in 21 states issued proclamations designating February 6 Ronald Reagan Day.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 6, 2014 at 1:13 pm

rusty impediments

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Your motive is loco, man.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So few places to go, no one to see. The gray frigidity has me down, lords and ladies, and it is not impossible that over the last few weeks, I’ve watched everything on Netflix- including a couple of episodes of “Power Rangers Jungle Fury.” Playing with the cords on my hoodie, counting the floor tiles, bored. That’s me. Cabin Fever, I think they call it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Been reading lots of good stuff, including a marathon exploration of the dissimilar topics of leprosy and the genetic consequences of multi generational incest- both of which led to the Hapsburgs. None of this relates one little bit to the history of Newtown Creek nor Queens, which actually has been my intention. Little projects like mine tend to drag you down a long drill hole, and you become so focused that you lose sight of the bigger picture… which somehow includes leprosy and incest.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Its cheerier reading than I normally do during this time of year, when my google searches have historically included “stages of putrefaction of cadaver” and “common practices of yeast distillation in 19th century america.” Hey, a guy gets curious about things. Its better to know something, well… some things… than to remain willfully ignorant about unpleasantries.

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freely generating

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If you see something, photograph it and say something.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Despite the overt messaging offered by security professionals and municipal Police officials concerning the presence of literally millions of desert born sappers hidden alongside the heaving shorelines of a lake called Freedom, there do seem to be quite a few holes in the fence lines of our rail yards. Probably, this is because the security apparatus of these institutions need to strike different nerves to acquire their sources of funds, rather than to rankle the ire of the common proletarians and politicians alike.

Luckily, this homeland insecurity allows one such as myself opportunity to observe some often esoteric kit which the railroad people employ for “maintenance of way.”

from wikipedia

A railroad crane, (US: crane car or wrecker; UK: breakdown crane) is a type of crane used on a railroad for one of three primary uses: freight handling in goods yards, permanent way (PW) maintenance, and accident recovery work. Although the design differs according to the type of work, the basic configuration is similar in all cases: a rotating crane body is mounted on a sturdy chassis fitted with flanged wheels. The body supports the jib (UK; US: boom) and provides all the lifting and operating mechanisms; on larger cranes, an operator’s cabin is usually provided. The chassis is fitted with buffing and coupling gear to allow the crane to be moved by a locomotive, although many are also self-propelled to allow limited movement about a work site.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s a flat bed car coupled to a self propelled rail crane, called a Burro, you’re looking at there. What your humble narrator doesn’t know about the rails is enormous and the scope of my ignorance on the subject is actually breathtaking, so if i misname something or am just wrong on this subject- please instruct and correct via the comments section.

Corrections and additions are always welcome at this, your Newtown Pentacle.

from rootsofmotivepower.org

Burro cranes (some were outfitted with shovels, as the one at Roots) were designed to be self-sufficient maintenance-of-way tools. As such, they were self-powered, and could propel not only themselves, but could take along with them a flat car, gondola, dump car or other equipment needed for their work. Therefore, they could take with them rail, ballast, timbers or any other materials needed for track repair or construction.

These utilitarian rail vehicles have been built by several manufacturers, including Cullen-Friestedt, Federal Sign & Signal, and now by the Badger Equipment Company. But they have always retained the name Burro, and if you say Burro to a railroader, he knows that you’re not referring to the four-legged animal.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Extensive construction and demolition work has been underway at Sunnyside Yards in anticipation of the East Side Access project for several years now, but these fellows with their Burro were MOW workers.

from maintenanceofway.com

Railroad Maintenance-of-Way (MOW) machinery and its design and utilization, is the equipment used by railroads to lay, clear, and maintain railroad track infrastructure and is of paramount importance in keeping the world’s railroads running dependably, safely and profitably. Railroads are a key component of the world economy. Corn, beans and other foods and feeds, coal, oil, manufactured goods, building materials, and virtually everything else that one can name, moves by rail. The volume of goods transported by the railroads is increasing dramatically. Existing railroad track must carry more and heavier traffic. Railroad bridges must be repaired and maintained. Fences, walls, gates, area lighting and other security structures are of increasing importance. Increased traffic and speeds adds to demand on signals. Railroad and railway Maintenance-of-Way equipment and utilization strategies play a key role in keeping all rail traffic running safely and on time. Railroad Maintenance-of-Way equipment and utilization efficiency planning make it possible for railroads to upgrade and maintain track and rights of way.

Want to see something cool? Upcoming Walking Tours

Modern Corridor Saturday, July 13, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets now on sale.

Kill Van Kull Saturday, August 10, 2013
Staten Island walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Working Harbor Committee, tickets now on sale.

13 Steps around Dutch Kills Saturday, August 17, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Newtown Creek Alliance, tickets now on sale.

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