The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Posts Tagged ‘trucks

seething around

with one comment

Maspeth Monday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One recently found himself scuttling about in industrial Maspeth, and waiting for the burning thermonuclear eye of god itself to dip behind Manhattan. Having a bit of time to kill, a fairly generalized “wander” was instituted, and I soon found myself hanging around a certain railroad intersection hoping to catch a shot or two of a passing freight train. Whereas I’m often quite lucky when it comes to maritime transport, I seem to be possessed of zero ability to predict when a train might be coming. C’est la vie, ay?

At any rate, Rust Street is still there, although it might be called 56 drive at the location where this photo was captured.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The wandering on this particular outing was intentionally wide ranging. One tends to get hooked into walking certain routes due to their efficiencies. That causes me to see and photograph the same things, over and over. Now… part of the “Mitch Method” does involve finding a composition and then visiting it repeatedly during different climatological conditions, times of the day, and seasons of the year seeking an iconic variation of the shot. That’s where the photographic “intentionality” I talk about comes into the equation, but I’ll also rattle on and on about “serendipity” as well. You want the latter, go wandering without a plan whereas for the former – plan. Let Queens show you what she wants you to see if serendipity is on the menu.

I did have a plan on this outing, incidentally, but I also had a couple of hours to kill before sunset. This is one of the best times of the year in NYC for morning and afternoon light, given the relative angle of God’s burning thermonuclear eye to the Metropolis. Take advantage, I say.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Industrial Maspeth hugs the northern shore of Newtown Creek, and is punctured through in several places by freight train tracks. It’s a central node on the distribution network for foodstuffs, construction equipment and supplies, and there’s a lot of light industrial activity as well. There’s a substantial footprint hereabouts enjoyed by the waste handling industry – both private carters and municipal DSNY operations are extant. Overall, the neighborhoods surrounding both sides of Newtown Creek host businesses that represent about 17,000 blue collar jobs. I’d be guessing if I tried to break that down into Brooklyn versus Queens, as if that actually mattered.

More tomorrow at this – your Newtown Pentacle.

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next week at the beginning of the week of Monday, October 12th. My plan is to continue doing my solo photo walks around LIC and the Newtown Creek in the dead of night as long as that’s feasible. If you continue to see regular updates here, that means everything is kosher as far as health and well being. If the blog stops updating, it means that things have gone badly for a humble narrator.


“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

October 12, 2020 at 11:00 am

chemical paraphernalia 

with 3 comments

Twirling, always twirling, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Here amongst the blessed rolling hills of that tower of municipal Babel called Astoria, a humble narrator has been noticing a scent familiar in recent weeks. Whenever one approached the street corner along Broadway between Steinway Street and Woodside Avenue, the scent of raw sewage occurred. Now – given the amount of time I’ve spent over the years describing my adventures along the Newtown Creek (and within a few DEP facilities that govern the sewer system) I’m just going to ask you to trust me when I say that I know EXACTLY what raw sewage smells like. As is my habit, whilst hoping and praying that I’m not the only person in the neighborhood who give one single “‘eff” about the place, I waited for a couple of weeks before calling 311, hoping that someone else would do it.

Meh. If you smell something, say something.

Last week, DEP responded within an astounding 90 minutes of my 311 call to report the smell conditions. I didn’t even have to invoke the “powers that be” of Western Queens, this time, for the system to expeditiously take care of it.

As a frequent and public critic of DEP, I felt compelled to congratulate the agency’s management, which I personally offered to Deputy Commissioner Eric Landau whom I ran into during an unrelated meeting in Greenpoint on the same day that the photo above was captured. Well done, DEP.

The truck pictured has a crane like rig installed, which in turn has a claw bucket attached to the end of its line. The fellow driving the truck opened the access (or manhole) cover on the corner and removed a blockage in the pipes beneath the street. He pulled out what seemed like a significant amount of garbage from down below which was loaded into the bin on the back of the truck. Good show, DEP, and the smell of raw sewage is once gain confined to the faraway Newtown Creek, rather than Astoria’s Broadway.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It being preferable that environmental or existential realities be “somebody else’s problem” is the New York City way, after all. All this crap that we all deal with is ultimately our own common fault, and since we got no one else to blame, that means that we don’t want to discuss it. That’s also the New York City way.

I always tell people that despite the fact that I’m involved with multiple environmentally oriented groups, I’m not an environmentalist, but that I know a few and that they are the “real thing.” They’re earth loving nature hippies, sandal wearing berry eaters, and bicycle riding dreamers who don’t understand the harsh realities of the actual tangible universe which the rest of us live in – but may the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself continue to shine beneficently of them, for despite my chides – they can actually get things done and are building a cleaner and healthier future. I’m not an environmentalist, but how can you not aspire to be one?

They are also the people you can count on to call 311 if and when the poop hits the fan, or when the corner sewer grate is exhaling rather than inhaling as it’s designed to do.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The unwillingness most of my neighbors evince towards getting involved with, and helping to guide the policies of, our government is something I just don’t understand. Men and women of conscience are everywhere you look in NYC, yet it’s also the NYC way to walk past a burning trash fire and say “somebody else’s problem.” People often ask me “what’s the matter with you, you don’t have enough of your own problems?” in regards to my chiding and constant admonitions regarding “getting involved.” My motivation is selfish, as I may need some help from the cops or whomever, and I believe that if they know me, that help might be a bit more profound in nature. Also, I’m not a fan of sewage smells wafting up out of the century old underground pipes which carry the flow.

Maybe I’m just a cheapskate, and want to know how the third of my household income seized by the government in every paycheck is being spent. Value for money? Expensive boondoggle lining the pockets of political favorites? Don’t you want to know what your money is doing, and how our common investments and properties are being managed? Don’t you want to make sure that De Blasio doesn’t intend to put a homeless shelter on your block?

Why not? 


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 12, 2016 at 11:00 am

stertorous inflection

with one comment

I like me a good truck photo, I does.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One such as myself has never experienced full throttle happiness, as there is always a shadow that looms. I point out the cloud in an otherwise clear sky to the non observant, remind people of the constant presence of existential mortality, and in general – be a sour sort of fellow. This is why it’s preferable for me to spend much of his time alone, and spare others the misery of my company. Soliloquy and a camera are my only companions when wandering about the City of Greater New York, and for one reason or another – I notice and photograph a lot of trucks – all different kinds of trucks.

The ones above are heavy duty.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s lots of private carting companies around the Newtown Pentacle, and accordingly, lots of waste transfer stations for them to bring their collections of refuse to. The sort of truck you see above is called a “packer,” but most of us just call it a garbage truck. Spotted in DUKBO, on the Brooklyn side of Newtown Creek, before the Kosciuszko Bridge project got rolling.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is a thoroughly burned up ex truck and trailer, on used to be Cherry Street in Greenpoint, before the Kosciuszko Bridge project got going. Lots of odd things used to occur in DUKBO, and it was a fantastic place to dump a vehicle – especially in the six months or so before the bridge project got rolling. At the time, I was told by one of my neighborhood informants that the truck ignited up on the BQE and that the FDNY towed it off the highway while still aflame.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In Queens, over in DUGABO, at the Sims Metal dock. That’s a DSNY packer dropping off its charge of recyclables for the global recycling conglomerate to process.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In Queensican Maspeth, the massive lot of the Ferrara Brothers Concrete company is found, and their distinctive orange and white concrete trucks are lined up and ready for duty. I’ve also remarked to myself about how finely detailed and clean the Ferrara trucks are – their fleet maintenance crews obviously give a lot of love to these machines.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Five Star Carting on Greenpoint Avenue in DUGABO and across the street from the sewer plant in Greenpoint, where one of their “roll on’s” is delivering a bin. The recycling company that the bin was being dropped off at burned down In a spectacular fire a couple of years back.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The very best kind of truck, the kind that reduces me to running behind it yelling “fireman, fireman” in the same manner that I did as a child in Brooklyn. The FDNY Hazardous Materials Unit 1 is found up the hill in Maspeth, just off Grand’s intersection with the Long Island Expressway.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A tanker truck on Railroad Avenue over on the Blissville side of DUGABO in Queens. Based on the signage adorning its bumper, my bet is that it’s carrying gasoline or heating oil. By tanker standards, this is a fairly low capacity vehicle, and it’s used for “last mile” deliveries to residential and small business customers.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

You can find the big boys of the fuel tanker world back in Brooklyn’s DUKBO, just off Meeker Avenue, where Island Fuel maintains an enormous property. These tankers do commercial work, filling up apartment house oil tanks and supplying gas stations with fuel.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over in Greenpoint, a truck which simply sucks. When things go badly for a tanker truck, or a leak develops in some underground doohickey, you call in a vacuum truck.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On Northern Boulevard in Queens, at the border of Woodside and Astoria, a truck which is in the process of delivering trucks. Kind of like a mama turtle giving a ride to her babies, ain’t it?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over on Betts Avenue, at Woodside’s border with Maspeth, you’ll notice a series of trucks fresh off the production line and awaiting adoption parked along the fence lines of Mount Zion cemetery.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In Maspeth proper, near Grand Avenue’s intersection with Rust Street, a crimson battalion of semi rigs is often observed. The military precision of their formation is worth noting.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The worst fate that can befall a truck, I believe, is to end up in the hands of one of NYC’s “lesser” agencies – as is the case with these NYCHA trucks arranged in a midden alongside the Queensboro houses in LIC.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A medium sized tanker, this Colony fuel oil truck was making a home heating oil delivery in Astoria. I love the color way, or paint job, that the home heating oil industry lavishes on their rigs. Exquisite business graphics often adorn their fleets, and are worthy of notice.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

When I was a kid, my dream was to either drive a dump truck or a bull dozer for a living. For some lucky employee of the Corzo construction company, the latter had become a manifest reality on Astoria’s Broadway.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The vast majority of NYC’s trucking companies – despite being based in Brooklyn, and Queens, and the Bronx, exist to service Manhattan’s needs. The locus point of the megalopolis, vast numbers of trucks converge on Manhattan at all hours of the day and night, choking their streets and disturbing the slumbering bourgeoise.

Of course, the Manhattan people give nary a thought as to where all these trucks go, and how they transit back and forth to their unsustainable island city.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

December 22, 2015 at 1:30 pm

flat platform

with 2 comments

Trucks, trucks, horses, trucks.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One spent a pretty decent amount of time wandering about the wastelands for Thanksgiving Weekend.

It was likely a good decision to do so, as my company is aberrant and I can be quite “the downer” around the holidays. My understanding of the origins of the term “downer,” by the way, is that it refers to a cow that was sick when it arrived at the stock yards. Common practice in the factory abattoirs of the 19th century was to move the downers to the front of the slaughter line while distracting the government inspectors. The inspectors were glad to be distracted, but they were already in the pockets of the beef trust anyway.

Cattle which was fed on distillery slop, which produced the “swill milk” which I’ve explained endlessly, were covered in sores and boils and were referred to as “steely.” It was a miserable job slaughtering the steely cattle, according to the historic record, but it’s hard to find any profession in the industrial sectors of the 19th century which wasn’t miserable.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Horses, mules, and oxen were not supposed to be part of the food ecosystem, nor were goats. Saying that, an enormous amount of horse meat found its way into cans of “tinned beef” back then and it was pretty common for “lamb chops” or “mutton” to have exhibited little verisimilitude to lambs. Goat makes for a good stew, at any rate, but I’ve been to Greece a few times and Hellene cuisine can make almost anything taste good. Supposedly, a significant number of the casualties in both the Civil and Spanish American wars were caused by soldiers consuming the tainted tins of meat in their rations.

By the beginning of the 20th century, NYC was producing something like ten million tons of horse manure a day. Modern people – myself included – bitch and moan about truck traffic but can you imagine the amount of shit that our modern world would produce if pack animals were still roaming the streets?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s hard to imagine that version of NYC, although there are a few people left amongst us who experienced it directly. It was still pretty common up until the 1920’s for Fire Engines in Brooklyn and Queens to be driven by teams of horses. FDNY, after the consolidation of the City of Greater New York in 1898, began to outfit the departmental structures in outlying districts and standardize their equipment around the internal combustion engine but that took a while and as you’d imagine – downtown Manhattan came first.

Until the ubiquity of cheap petroleum became a reality, and the supply chain of an automotive industry existed, the horse was still your best bet for moving people and cargo around.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There was an entire industrial complex built around the horse and carriage trade, as you’d imagine. Just as we don’t think twice about taking a long drive, secure in the knowledge that should we need to replace an engine part or a tire that there’ll be a Pep Boys or auto mechanic everywhere you choose to go – so too did the carriage trade enjoy a dispersed network of supply and demand based equipment and an abundance of skilled mechanics, stable keepers, and tradesmen in every town and village they’d pass through.

Newtown Creek, on the Queens side in particular, hosted a variety of trade manufacturers who supplied the carriage trade. Atavistic industries produced “carbon black,” a kind of paint manufactured from burning and then crushing up animal bones, which provided Victorian era horse carriages (think any Sherlock Holmes movie or TV show) with their shiny black coatings. Others manufactured “neet oil” and the various bits and bobs which the Teamsters would require to ferry people and commerce around the city at the speed of a trotting horse. Funnily enough, that’s just under the speed at which the current Mayor’s “Vision Zero” traffic initiative requires motor vehicles to operate at.

When the pack animals were spent, and their useful occupation at an end, companies like Van Iderstine’s rendering plant in Blissville or Peter Cooper’s Glue factory in Bushwick awaited their arrival.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Researching the history of Newtown Creek, as I do, one often encounters early versions of environmentalist sentiment. A particular period in the 1880’s saw Manhattan based reformers complaining in vociferous fashion about the smells, carried on the prevailing north westerly winds which then as now swept across the Creek and East River, which plagued Murray Hill and the east side of Manhattan Island. I’ll be exploring this in some detail next week, but the really interesting part of this narrative from the 1880’s is the push to rid the Creek of the “organics” processors like the rendering plants, glue factories, bone blackers, and “superphosphate” manufacturers in favor of the “scientific manufacturers” like General Chemical (Phelps Dodge) and the petroleum distillers like Standard Oil. As mentioned, more on this one next week.

As a note, check out that truck in the shot above. Not only is it parked in a bus stop, but it’s also blocking a fire hydrant.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

December 3, 2015 at 11:00 am

eon hence

with 3 comments

Sweet Pete’s, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

When I was growing up, one of my best friends was a guy named Ronnie. There’s were always sleep overs at Ronnie’s house, which were great as his mom loved doling out the Entenmann’s donuts, and she also let her boy hang whatever posters he fancied on the walls of his room. Ronnie’s choices always included ladies like Farrah Fawcet or an extremely young Heather Locklear, along with a bunch of trucks and muscle cars. A friend of my youth, Ronnie is long gone and dearly departed, but whenever I spot Peterbilt Semi’s parked alongside the road in my beloved Astoria, I always think of the big doofus.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The trailers of these trucks tell me exactly where they’re going to be headed to. “Municipal Solid Waste” is the generally used term for the solid material which is filtered out of the sewage flow. There could be soil in there as well, but given this spot’s proximity to the Bowery Bay Sewage treatment plant (less than a mile away), it’s a safe bet to say that these trucks are working for the DEP.

Incidentally – I’ve had DEP engineers tell me that one of the items which causes them the most trouble are actually coffee grinds. It seems that the grinds pick up so much speed in the flowing currents of sewage that they can etch the pipes they’re moving through – a process that’s not unlike sandblasting.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I thought the green truck was pretty cool looking, but that’s when I walked under the highway overpass and found this model on the grade crossing. The orange parts of the truck were in that optic orange color you see on construction vests and safety cones, which is used for such applications because of the incredibly broad spectrum of light it reflects. It’s something impossible to replicate without specialized inks in the print world, and neither computer monitors nor digital cameras can render it accurately.

Saying that, the orange looks a bit redder in the shot below because of this very quality.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One is thankful that the weather seems to have turned, even if it’s only been a few days since the ice cracked. There’s so many places to visit, and things to see, and little time in which to do so. It’s good to walk in the rays of the burning thermonuclear eye of god itself once more, to see those things Queens wants me to see, and resume the battle for truth, justice, and the American way.

It’s all so depressing.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

March 13, 2015 at 11:00 am

%d bloggers like this: