The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘Sunnyside Yard

public building

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Sunnyside Yard, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Everybody always asks me how I get these shots, or about certain qualities in them. Simple answer is that I’m always experimenting with the camera, and when I come up with some protocol for “how to get this or that” my next move is usually to reverse it and see what happens.

How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, my friend, practice.

The setting: Recently, an evening meeting carried one up the hill from the elluvial flatlands of Southern Astoria to the heights of the ridge which Sunnyside was built into. Between these two neighborhoods, there’s a former tidal swamp into which the Sunnyside Yard was embedded back in the first decade of the 20th century. Once the largest rail coach yard on earth, the Yard still hosts the busiest rail junction found on the continent, the so called Harold Interlocking. The busy part is due to the frequent passage of Long Island Railroad commuter rail trains, which share the switches and rails with Amtrak.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The conditions: Sunset to the west, which I was going to be shooting right into. The weather was humid, and a bit misty. The point of view is surrounded by steel plated chain link fencing whose purpose is to deny observation of vulnerable infrastructure (I’m told that this fencing was installed during the first decade of the Terror Wars). One such as myself has a vast catalog of fence holes and gaps which are dearly held, and since my meeting in Sunnyside would carry one past an entire series of these occluded viewpoints, a point was made to pocket one of my lenses small enough to fit into while leaving HQ. I also brought some chewing gum, but that’s not important.

My “good lenses,” which are used in particularly high rotation, have a circumference too large for these cracks in the walls around the Sunnyside Yard – so a “decent” lens which has a decidedly smaller diameter was employed.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The “decent lens” mentioned is the so called “nifty fifty” offered by Canon. It’s far and away my most inexpensive tool, and allows wide open apertures which would make it handy for night time shots but for its persnickety focusing mechanics. The term for what it does, autofocus wise, is called “hunting.” What that means is that it noisily rolls through the range of focus and never quite settles itself into a lock. My usual habit with this sort of thing is to use autofocus to “get it close” and then switch the thing over to manual focus for final adjustment.

The optic formula of the lens also renders things a bit less “contrasty” than I’d like, but you can’t really complain about camera equipment which retails for around a hundred bucks – especially when it fits through fence holes.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The methodology: For those of you not in the know, as to how cameras and lenses work – a “bright lens” will allow you to operate it at wide apertures (f1.8 in the instance of the nifty fifty). Wide apertures create a tremendous “depth of field” effect, which means that the area which is in focus will appear sharply delineated and everything else will be blurred. Higher aperture settings – the “f-stops” as it were – will create a hyperfocal range in which everything in frame will be sharply defined. The lower the “f-stop” the more light enters the camera, and the higher ones allow less light to get to the sensor. You balance the shot using shutter speed and ISO settings. Night shots and interior spaces require you to use the lens “wide open,” with slow shutter speeds, and higher ISO settings – all of which introduce certain quality issues to the captured image.

The shots in today’s post were consciously captured with the desire to have “everything” in focus, with a minimum of motion blur as well, and to record a full range of color and tone. Difficult to do with the sun behind the scene, and in a setting where everything is made of contrasting reflective surfaces.

My formula was to actually reverse my night shooting protocol on 2/3rds of the exposure triangle, using a very narrow f-stop and fairly fast shutter speed, but with a high ISO setting for tone and color sensitivity (f10, 1/1250th of a second, ISO 800). Sometimes, particularly during the summer, the problem isn’t that there enough light – there’s actually too much of it and some methodology needs to be employed to control it. Experimentation and failure often emanate from screwing around with your normal shooting habits, but sometimes it pays to mix things up a bit.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

July 12th, 2015
Glittering Realms Walking Tour
with Newtown Creek Alliance, click here for details and tickets.

psychologically sensitive

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Another darkling image in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned yesterday, an attempt to catch up on my many deadlines is under way, hence a single shot with little commentary is offered.

Upcoming Tours

Saturday- September 28, 2013
Newtown Creek Boat Tour with the Working Harbor Committee- tickets on sale now.

Saturday – October 19, 2013
The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek with Atlas Obscura- tickets on sale soon.

Sunday- October 20th, 2013
The Poison Cauldron of the Newtown Creek with Brooklyn Brainery- tickets on sale now

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Written by Mitch Waxman

September 27, 2013 at 9:27 am

higher order

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“follow” me on Twitter at @newtownpentacle

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Happy Monday Newtowniverians, and a healthy one is wished for all the Brooklynites and Queensicans out there.

Today’s post displays a couple of interesting shots I managed to grab before a meeting held at LaGuardia Community College for the Newtown Creek CAG.

This CAG is a sort of advisory/community group which has formed up around the edges of the EPA Superfund project. The CAG is a requirement for EPA, and they periodically convene a meeting to inform us about their activities and overall status of the process.


A Superfund Community Advisory Group (CAG) is made up of members of the community and is designed to serve as the focal point for the exchange of information among the local community and EPA, the State regulatory agency, and other pertinent Federal agencies involved in cleanup of the Superfund site.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In this meeting, during which a presentation from the NYC DEP was offered describing a forthcoming dredging project on Newtown Creek, discussion of various issues surrounding the Superfund project between Federal officials and community representatives was offered. Everyone else in the room was a lettered professional or community leader or of high professional caliber, representing every conceivable office, power, and potentate involved in the Newtown Creek story.

Then there’s me, who kept on having his attention drift over to the Sunnyside Yard and the fantastic views of it at rush hour which I wasn’t photographing.


Newtown Creek CAG membership is structured on a rolling basis. The Superfund process on Newtown Creek will take many years, and interested stakeholders are encouraged to become CAG members as they learn of and want to fully participate in the process.

The CAG is designed to serve as an ongoing vehicle for information-sharing, discussion, and, where possible, consensus-building regarding decision-making related to the Newtown Creek Superfund Site. Its members represent a diverse cross-section of key stakeholder interests, including affected property owners, concerned residents, local governments, community groups, environmental groups, health experts, the business community, and others as appropriate. Requirements and responsibilities for CAG members are described in the CAG’s Operating Procedures, posted in the Resources tab.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

An odd duck, even after all these years, it is so strange to think that someone like me is even allowed in the building let alone invited to participate and offer both questions for correct answering and contribute direct observations of obscure places being discussed. The folks at EPA have shared some of their early findings, which have greatly excited the scientific minded and fired the imaginations of those who imagine a “greener” city. Check out the CAG site for details.


“out of your depth”- meaning: in water that is so deep that it goes over your head when you are standing: I’m not a strong swimmer so I prefer not to go out of my depth.

nature and position

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Shenanigans continue on the weekends, here in the heart of the perennial “next big thing” known to most as Long island City. When the “next big thing” term originally applied, in 1909, it actually was true and a vast industrial city sprang forth from amongst scattered mills and swamps overlaid with rail tracks. That whole thing lasted around twenty or thirty years, whereupon the neighborhood began a long and slow decline. In the late 1980’s, LIC became the “next soho” and then in the late 90’s the “next DUMBO”, and of late the “next Williamsburg”. Problem is that these days, it’s just kind of difficult to get around the place without a car, which is ironic, as this is where all the trains are headed.


Work Completed

Court Sq Station was closed for ten weeks between January and April. During the time the station was closed, we replaced the Manhattan-bound and Flushing-bound platforms and windscreens (platform walls), installed ADA accessible boarding areas, tactile warning strips, and signage. In addition, new track and platform to mezzanine stairways were installed and the station’s mezzanine and columns on station platforms were painted.

At Hunters Point Av, during an 11-month construction project we installed new column and wall tiles, a floor in the mezzanine, new railings and stainless steel handrails and light fixtures above stairs. In addition, we refurbished the street and platform stairs, painted the mezzanine, platform and track ceilings and repaired structural steel above the platforms and tracks. Also, water leaks were sealed and the public address system was modified.

A six-month station improvement project at Vernon Blvd-Jackson Av resulted in repairing/replacing station column and wall tiles; repairing platform surfaces and platform edge concrete; and repairing and painting platform and track ceilings. Station lighting and platform drainage was upgraded, and tactile ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) warning strips and new rubbing boards (edge of platform) were installed.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

They just love to mess around with us on the weekends, don’t they? Turn off entire subway lines while running the buses on weekend schedules. Just a few weeks ago, signal problems on the R and N tracks also shut down the G, F, and E- all this on the same day that 7 service was closed for maintenance. This put western Queens in quite a pickle, except for those who ride bicycles or drive cars.

from wikipedia

Long Island City is served by the elevated BMT Astoria Line (N Q trains) and IRT Flushing Line (7 ; trains) of the New York City Subway. It is also served by the underground IND 63rd Street Line (F train), IND Queens Boulevard Line (E F M R trains) and IND Crosstown Line (G train). The Long Island City and Hunterspoint Avenue stations of the Long Island Rail Road are here, and a commuter ferry service operated by NY Waterway at the East River Wharf. Cars enter by way of the Queensboro Bridge, the Queens Midtown Tunnel and the Pulaski Bridge. The Roosevelt Island Bridge also connects Long Island City to Roosevelt Island. Queens Boulevard, Northern Boulevard (New York 25A) and the Long Island Expressway all pass through the area.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The “next big thing”, you have to understand, is the concentrating point of transportation infrastructure on western Long Island. The Long Island Expressway terminates at the Midtown Tunnel, and the various rail tunnels peppered about this ancient city are the choke point for subway, LIRR, and Amtrak service into and out of Manhattan. Losing any one piece of the system is massively disruptive, especially when it becomes a multi month affair as it was in the first quarter of 2012. Luckily, we are about to enjoy another protracted period of transit outages in 2013, and your humble narrator has grown quite used to walking.

from wikipedia

The Steinway Tunnel carries the 7 ; trains of the New York City Subway under the East River between 42nd Street in Manhattan and 51st Avenue in Long Island City, Queens, in New York City. It was originally designed and built as an interurban trolley tunnel (hence the narrow loading gauge and height), with stations near the 7 ; trains’ current Hunters Point Avenue and Grand Central stations. It is named for William Steinway, who was a major promoter of its construction, although he died in 1896 before it was completed.

Also- Upcoming Newtown Creek tours and events:

for more information on the October 27th Newtown Creek Boat Tour, click here

for more information on the November 9th Newtown Creek Magic Lantern Show, click here

for an expanded description of the November 11th Newtown Creek tour, please click here

…hits the fan

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Council Member Van Bramer sent this out to his mailing list today, regarding Hurricane Irene

As everyone knows by now, Hurricane Irene is expected to hit our area sometime Saturday into Sunday. We should all take precautions to be prepared for a storm of this magnitude. Some areas in our district are in evacuation zones and at high risk for flooding. Those areas of Hunters Point/Long Island City should familiarize themselves with the map below and know that should an evacuation be ordered, Newcomers High School (28-01 41st Ave.), Aviation High School (45-30 36th St.) and W.C. Bryant High School (48-10 31st Ave.) are your nearest evacuation centers. The City will make a decision about whether to order a mandatory evacuation of Zone A for the general public by 8:00 AM on Saturday. The evacuation centers will be open as of 5:00 PM today and the City is strongly recommending that people within these areas immediately make plans to go to alternative locations outside of Zone A starting tomorrow for the duration of the storm. The orange areas are Zone A. The yellow areas are Zone B. The green areas are Zone C.

We are also concerned about significant portions of the district including parts of Sunnyside, Woodside, Astoria and Maspeth that have experienced flooding during several recent storms. Our office has been and will continue to be in contact with the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and other city agencies throughout this weekend. Anyone experiencing difficulties as a result of Hurricane Irene should contact me and my office as soon as they occur. We will report problems in real time. For those outside of Zone A areas that have experienced flooding or are concerned that you may, please click on the link below on how to protect your valuables. In addition to calling our office, DEP is asking for reports of flooding to be called in to 311.

I have also been in touch today with NYCHA and the Mayor’s Office to make certain that Queensbridge, Ravenswood, and the Woodside Houses are included in any and all emergency plans including evacuation, should that be necessary. We will continue to be in regular contact with NYCHA throughout the storm.

While we continue to hope for the best, we must prepare for the worst. The city has published some useful information in securing your home during the storm. Please click on the link below for recommendations on how best to prepare for the hurricane.

Given the high volume of traffic to OEM’s (Office of Emergency Management) website there have been delays and interruptions in gaining access to some of these links. For that reason, we also include the Red Cross’ Hurricane Safety Checklist below. We have also included information from OEM’s Hurricane Guide at the end of this email should that link not respond when you try it.

In advance of the hurricane I wanted to remind you that clogged catch basin grates can aggravate flooding.  Although DEP staff – with the help of their colleagues at other agencies – are busy cleaning catch basins now, DEP has asked us to remind homeowners and residents that they welcome assistance in removing leaves, litter or other debris that may prevent water from flowing off the streets and into the catch basins.  For any of you that aren’t familiar with catch basins the attached link to a page on DEP’s website has some text and visuals that will help explain why flooding occurs and how citizens can help DEP minimize flooding by removing debris where they see it blocking catch basin grates.

I will be keeping my district office open on Saturday to field questions and concerns from constituents. Needless to say, we will close the office when the storm approaches and will reopen as soon as it is safe to do so. My district office number is (718) 383-9566. I will be in the district throughout the storm and encourage anyone with problems to email me concerns at as well as using social media including Facebook ( and Twitter ( to reach me. You may also call 311. Please only call 911 if you have a very serious or life threatening emergency.

I hope this update and the attached information proves useful to you. Again, my staff and I will be working throughout the weekend and please do not hesitate to contact me should you need assistance.


Jimmy Van Bramer

Council Member

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Additionally, the Council Member included the following information from the Office of Emergency Management

OEM’s Hurricane Guide

To secure your home if a tropical storm or hurricane watch is issued:

Bring inside loose, lightweight objects, such as lawn furniture, garbage cans, and toys.

Anchor objects that will be unsafe to bring inside, like gas grills or propane tanks. Turn off propane tanks.

Shutter windows securely and brace outside doors.

Place valuables in waterproof containers or plastic bags.

Help Others Prepare

  • Check on friends, relatives, and neighbors, especially those with disabilities or special needs, and assist them with their preparation and evacuation.
  • If you live outside an evacuation zone, offer to shelter family and friends who may need to evacuate.

If Asked to Evacuate, Do So Immediately

The City will communicate specific instructions about which areas of the city should evacuate through local media. If the City Issues an Evacuation Order for Your Area: Evacuate immediately. Use public transportation if possible.

If you are going to an evacuation center, pack lightly, and bring:

  • Your Go Bag
  • Sleeping bag or bedding
  • Required medical supplies or equipment
  • Let friends or relatives know where you are going.

What about my pets?

  • Make sure your disaster plan addresses what you will do with your pet if a hurricane requires you to leave your home.
  • Plan to shelter your pet at a kennel or with friends or relatives outside the evacuation area.
  • Be sure you have supplies ready for your pet in the event of an evacuation, including food, a leash, a muzzle, proof of shots, and a cage or carrier.

Account for your special needs

  • Consider your capabilities and make sure your preparedness plan addresses how your special needs affect your ability to evacuate and shelter.
  • Determine if you will need assistance and arrange help from friends, family, or neighbors.
  • Consider additional supplies and equipment that you may need to bring with you, such as medicine, icepacks, medical devices, and backup equipment. Bring food for your dietary needs.
  • Include additional time and evaluate your transportation options.


Prepare A Disaster Plan

Develop a plan with your household members that outlines what to do, how to find each other, and how to communicate if a hurricane strikes New York. If you rent your home, renter’s insurance will insure the items inside your apartment. If you are a homeowner, make sure your home is properly insured — flood and wind damage are not covered in a basic homeowner’s policy.

Know Where You Will Go

The City strongly recommends evacuees stay with friends or family who live outside evacuation zone boundaries. For those who have no other shelter, the City will open hurricane shelters throughout the five boroughs.

To ensure efficient use of resources, the City will ask all evacuees to report to an evacuation center. Once at the evacuation center, evacuees will either be assigned to a hurricane shelter in the same facility or transported to an associated hurricane shelter by bus.

Every household member should have a small Go Bag — a collection of items you may need during an evacuation packed in an easy-to-carry container such as a backpack. A Go Bag should be easily accessible if you have to leave your home in a hurry.

Assemble an Emergency Supply Kit

You may be instructed to shelter in place (stay at home) during a hurricane. Keep enough supplies in your home to survive for at least three days.

If you do not live in an evacuation zone

All areas of the city could face hurricane-related hazards such as high winds, flooding, tornadoes, and loss of utilities. You may be instructed to shelter in place (stay at home) for several days until the hurricane passes.

If you live in a high-rise apartment building

Residents of high-rise apartment buildings may face special risks from hurricanes even if they live outside evacuation zone boundaries. If you live in a high-rise building outside an evacuation zone, be prepared to take shelter on or below the 10th floor. If you live in a high-rise building located in an evacuation zone, heed evacuation orders.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This looks like it will be a profound event. Personally, I’m preparing for an uncomfortable few days, but that’s because I live inland and uphill in Astoria. Long Island City and Greenpoint on the other hand…

Our friends at have prepared an excellent posting on the Zone A situation, which can accessed here:

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Newtown Creek Alliance, an organization of which I’m a member, issued this statement earlier today…

Flood Warning for Creek Neighborhoods

Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced on August 25th, 2011 that certain emergency measures will be instituted in low lying coastal districts referred to as “Zone A” (at high risk of coastal flooding) due to the expected arrival of Hurricane Irene in the New York City area late Saturday night. Much of the land surrounding Newtown Creek is designated as “Zone A” on the coastal flooding map prepared by City officials, including large tracts of Greenpoint and Long Island City. For a map of the affected areas, please click here.

Newtown Creek Alliance cautions residents of the affected areas to monitor the situation and be prepared to evacuate should authorities warrant it necessary. If an evacuation is recommended or ordered, information about evacuation centers and hurricane shelters may be found by calling 311 or at by visiting this website. Additionally, be mindful that during such an event, the flood waters could carry a significant load of pollutants and should not be ingested. Care should be taken upon any contact with skin.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Sources within the City have discussed this storm with me in the most dire tones. If you live in an area designated for evacuation, please comply. I’ll be marching out into the brave new aftermath early Monday morning, if there’s something which you think I should point my camera at, please contact me here. Good luck, and assuming the availability of both electrical power and internet connectivity, I’ll post as the situation develops.

As this post was being prepared, Council Member Van Bramer passed along another message, ordering the mandatory evacuation of Zone A by 5 pm Saturday.

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