The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘Rain

pencilled notes

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To distraction, it drives me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the dodges often offered by the governmental crowd is the avoidance of specifics when they’re trying to sell you the latest flavor of kool aid they’ve been cooking up in City Hall. To wit, the Green Infrastructure/bioswale/rain garden story which the NYC DEP “sells and tells” is scientifically valid, but they refuse to prove it so by using numbers. In short – the various wastewater treatment plants which NYC owns and operates, there are 14 of them, have a set engineered capacity for how many gallons of wastewater that they can handle. Given that it rains more than it used to, and there’s also a lot more toilets flushing than there used to be, one option for handling the design capacity overage would be to finance and build a series of additional sewer plants. That particular choice would be expensive, both fiscally and politically. Another option is to increase the amount of open soil in the drainage area serviced by the existing 14 so that instead of going into a sewer, rainfall and other precipitation soaks into the ground and soil. Problem there is that the ground in NYC is largely coated in cement and concrete. What’s the answer then? Rain Gardens, right?

You open up some of the soil, as in thousands of acres citywide, and you’ve extended the design capacity and service life of your 14 sewer plants for another couple of decades. Those thousands of acres would be aggregate, of course, tap holes of small size, scattered around the various neighborhoods in strategic spots which would drink up “x” number of gallons of rain.

You add the open spots up, you’ve achieved the vast acreages. Simple, right?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

According to the building guides used by architects who want to construct things in the megalopolis, a square acre of land in NYC can be expected to accumulate (if memory serves) 22.7 inches of rain per year. Don’t expect one such as myself to accurately calculate the number of gallons that represents, but the idea here is that there is actually a calculable number which can be arrived at. Rain Gardens, which in their current form are about a yard (or meter) long on the short side and about three meters (or yards) on the long side, are engineered structures which Government employees are designing and installing. Government employees – and in particular Civil Engineers – do not “guess” when they’re spending your tax money. There is a calculation somewhere which dictates that “x” number of bioswale/rain gardens equate to “y” number of gallons being diverted from the sewers. DEP has instead constantly told me that they are essentially crossing their fingers and hoping for the best with their “Green Infrastructure” initiative. Even in private meetings, they say this.

That’s when I opine that they are lying to my face, that engineers do not cross their fingers and hope for the best, and I ask them why they are treating this like a state secret. Funnily, I believe that the Green Infrastructure program is fantastic, and represents the sort of lateral thinking which I espouse. Gordian Knot, anyone?

A bit of quick Google fu indicates that a single inch of water covering a square acre would represent roughly 27,154 gallons, and multiplying that amount by 23 gives you roughly 624,548 gallons per square acre. I suck at math, so this is probably off, but “State secret,” right?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Other than wanting to run the shots that were captured during last Friday’s rain storm, the thing that set me off on this topic was actually where I was going on Friday night. The CB1 Astoria Community Board Environmental Committee – which I’m a member of – invited representatives of an outfit called “Solar One” to come and discuss the requirements and nuances of a new series of local laws that address climate change and carbon emissions here in NYC. When queried about how many theoretical acres of NYC rooftop which the new law required for conversion to solar, and what number of kilowatt hours that acreage would result in as far as harvesting power from passive collection, the answer was “it depends” and that “we haven’t calculated that.” Sound familiar?

Why treat it like a state secret? I’m certainly “for this,” and being evasive with answers is not how you create allies who will help sell this plan to their neighbors.


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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

March 9, 2020 at 1:00 pm

invocation addressed

with one comment

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

disjointed fragments

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Hells Kitchen in the rain.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of my destinations last week was a Christmas Party get together with my pals from the Working Harbor Committee at a bar in the City, specifically in the Hells Kitchen section. Well, I guess it’s Hells Kitchen as it was on 9th and 50th, which sure ain’t what you’d call the theater district. One used to be employed nearby, when the Ogilvy and Mather ad agency was based in the Worldwide Plaza building. The building owners used to save money when stocking the toilets with “consumables,” and the 1 ply stuff they’d fill the men’s room toilet paper dispensers with just didn’t sit right with me. I’d keep a couple of rolls of Charmin in my desk for when nature called. It’s the small comforts which make life worth living, I always say. I’d always make a show of taking a crap at work, since I loved, and still do, the idea of getting paid to defecate.

Pictured above is a lineup of those pedal cabs on 9th Avenue which the tourists love so much. I’ve heard them referred to as “tuk tuks” but that’s a term normally used for a sort of motorized for hire vehicle common in south east Asia. A friend of mine held a part time gig once as a repairman for these things, but then he decided to devote himself entirely to his other and more lucrative career as a Union Glazier.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A core belief of mine, mentioned many times, is that NYC never looks better than it does when it’s raining. Sure, it’s often uncomfortable and inconvenient, but our town is usually in need of a nice bath and all the reflected and refracted lights rippling around in the puddles are just magic.

Frequent commenter George the Atheist asked recently why I eschew zoom lenses in such circumstance in favor a single prime lens (in the case of these shots, 24mm). Short answer is that when the zoom lens telescopes in and out of its barrel, it tends to pull dust and moisture into the mechanism, so… rain. Additionally, I’m digging on the challenge of the limitations offered by a single focal length lens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Tonight, there will be a Queens Community Board 1 meeting at Astoria World Manner at 6:30 which I’ll be attending. It doesn’t seem that there’s anything earth shattering on the agenda, but the good news is that as of right now it’s the last “have to” I’ve got for this decade. There’s a bunch of “I want to’s” between now and New Year’s Eve, which is good news, but they mostly revolve around libation oriented social events.

The wheel of the year turns and turns.


“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

December 17, 2019 at 1:10 pm

thinkers perspective

with 2 comments

NYC looks best when it’s wet.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Biblical scholars believe that the Garden of Eden is metaphorical, but theorize that its supposed location would be where the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers run into the Persian Gulf. Others postulate that Eden was on the Iranian Plateau, or on the Armenian plain. Hacks.

Eden, which is the metaphysical center and starting point of the entire universe as far as three of the major religions go, was in Manhattan. Specifically Times Square. Seriously, what would the rest of you do without me to set things straight?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It was 42nd street between 7th and 8th avenues where the Adamic pair were presented to the angels by Yahweh, and this is the block where the great schism occurred amongst the sons of fire. That’s where Sammael became Lucifer, right where Dave and Busters is, along with a third of the angelic host who then fell into the ground with it and became demons. As a note, using “him” or “her” for god and the angels is incorrect both grammatically and factually. They are definitively “it’s.” Extradimensional and non material undying intelligences with seemingly limitless power are “it’s.”

The part of the Adam and Eve (or Adam and Hawwa for our Muslim friends) story everybody passes over, for some reason, is that the expulsion from Eden happened not just to punish the pair for eating the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, it was to ensure that they didn’t also eat fruit from the Tree of Life. The latter’s ovum would impart immortality to the primeval gourmand, and was protected from consumption or approach by a cadre of fierce Cherubim (which are “lower” and automaton like Angels that have little room for interpreting their orders) and a free floating flaming sword which was set on smite.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The actual location of the Tree of Good and Evil is pictured above, and was more or less where the Times Square Subway station entrance is found (accounting for continental drift, of course). The Land of Nod where the whole Cain and Abel thing happened is obviously Staten Island, but back then there were land bridges between Manhattan and Richmond County. Humanity, therefore, populated the planet starting from Times Square out.

The crossing of a lot of geography and vast oceans, and the epic tale of how the bloodline of Adam made it to the modern day Middle East and then incestuously populated Eurasia, must have been lost during Noah’s flood. Suffice to say, Times Square is the literal and metaphorical actual center of the Universe.

It also looks great when it’s raining.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Come on a tour!

With Atlas ObscuraInfrastructure Creek AT NIGHT! My favorite walking tour to conduct, and in a group limited to just twelve people! October 29th, 7-9 p.m.

Click here for more information and tickets!

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

October 23, 2019 at 2:30 pm

nervous coordination

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Wet, that’s me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

These shots aren’t from yesterday’s rainstorm, instead they’re from last week’s deluge. My little dog Zuzu and I were eagerly awaiting the eventual return of Our Lady of the Pentacle from a social engagement last Wednesday when the sky opened up and biblical amounts of rain began to fall. What was odd about that particular storm was that the airborne droplets seemed to be swirling on their way down to the mean streets, negating any chance of finding a “rain shadow” to record the scene from. Even setting up my camera on a windowsill inside HQ didn’t really provide the lens with much cover as the rain seemed to be falling sideways. Weather is weird.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the interesting things that has come out of all the long exposure stuff I’ve been doing for a while now has been the revelation that you can visualize traffic patterns moving through urban streets using this technique. Head lamps, and running or brake lights, leave behind tell tale trails. For some reason this is fascinating to me, and since anything that isn’t standing still in the frame for at least fifteen to twenty seconds is effectively “ghosted” those trails are the only indication of where a vehicle was and what its path was. The reduction of item based distraction allows one to record actual “desire paths” chosen by the driver.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of these days, I’ve got to do a series of these and then blend them into a time lapse video. I’d love to somehow take up position thirty to forty feet over the double yellow line, of course, but you’d need one of those mobile oppression platforms used by NYPD or a cherry picker basket on a telecom maintenance truck to do so. The mobile oppression platform would be best, of course, since it’s got a solid cop roof on it.

I spent a lot of time shooting stuff in the rain this last week, and it’s going to be a moist five days here at the Newtown Pentacle.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Come on a tour!

With Atlas ObscuraInfrastructure Creek AT NIGHT! My favorite walking tour to conduct, and in a group limited to just twelve people! October 29th, 7-9 p.m.

Click here for more information and tickets!

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

October 21, 2019 at 1:00 pm

Posted in Astoria, Broadway, NY 11103

Tagged with , ,

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