The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

all massing

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Better late than never.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a community over on reddit which posts “shower thoughts.” It’s usually the deep revelation stuff: “buying a Lay Z Boy makes you a lazy boy” sort of ideas. My brain is a bit bruised today – one has been attempting to force the organ to fulfill its purpose (other than just acting as a counterweight for my butt) of late – so I won’t bore you with my little snippets of realized truth as they would all sound something like: “tired, so tired, tired, my foot hurts, tired…” and so on. That’s what my shower thoughts might sound like when I’m transversing Ravenswood.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Speaking of Ravenswood, somebody went to no small amount of effort at creating a giant hole in the ground nearby Queens Plaza. This aperture was something like 30-40 feet across and of an unknown depth. I’d like to think that NYPD has finally found that vampire nest they’ve been searching for, you know, the ones that attack the Blood Center on Vernon every night.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One is sticking close to home this weekend, as next week “it begins.” “It” is Newtown Creek tour season, and I’m likely not going to see too much of home on Saturdays and Sundays for the next several months – a welcome counterpart to the frozen season recently past.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

May 3, 2015 –
DUBPO, Down Under the Pulaski Bridge Onramp
with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman, a free tour offered as part of Janeswalk 2015, click here for tickets.

May 16, 2015 –
13 Steps Around Dutch Kills with Atlas Obscura

with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman, click here for details and tickets.

May 31, 2015 –
Newtown Creek Boat Tour
with Working Harbor Committee and Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman, click here for tickets.

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 24, 2015 at 4:26 pm

grown stern

with one comment

Getting meaner and meaner.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Yesterday’s little post about Earth Day seems to have struck a sour note with some. Apparently your humble narrator was a bit too much of curmudgeon on this topic for some. Well, there you go. One has run into this sort of thing over and over during the last few years, folks who cry “Heresy” if everything they believe in isn’t part of your personal credo. Personally, I’m not the sort who buys the entire restaurant’s menu when sitting down to dinner. I say it all the time to the Newtown Creek people, whenever a disagreement erupts amongst us – There’s more that we agree on than what we disagree on, so let’s focus on that.

Unfortunately, academics and activists are often rather “catholic” in their viewpoints and want you to just sign on to anything they tell you with little critical analysis. You can’t “pick and choose” they’ll tell you. If you persist in pursuing or debating with them, you’re branded with analogies or aspersions of your resemblance to unloved or reviled historical characters that range from Adolph Eichmann to Dick Cheney or Sean Hannity (or other members of the Fox News staff) – a juvenile response which is akin to a drunken adolescent calling a uniformed Police Officer a fascist.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Orthodoxy has never sat well with me, whether it be in politics or religion. A closed mind is a closed mind, after all. If you think you’ve got the world all figured out, you’re wrong. Nothing is simple, every action and stance has a consequence and an unimagined result. Robert Moses once suggested that Lucifer himself would be lauded by the Press if he was advocating for Parks. Question everything, I say. Take nothing at face value. Everybody does this thing or that for a reason, nothing is random, and there is not one person in public life who isn’t beating some sort of drum. Unfortunately, we are trapped in a paradigm of political life which has been frozen since the 1960’s. There are no liberals, or conservatives, or progressives, anymore. Those labels no longer apply, and haven’t since the 1990’s. “Conservative George W. Bush” was actually a radical, and “Liberal” Barack Obama is actually a conservative – using the actual meaning of what those terms once meant 50 years ago.

Can’t tell you how many of the urbanists and City Planning types that I’ve met over the years only live in NYC part time, and who actually hate the City lifestyle, btw.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So, what sort of drum am I beating?

Famously, I have no agenda. My role in all of this nonsense that I’m involved in is simply to record the tumultuous era we are experiencing – the Superfund period on Newtown Creek, the vast redevelopment of the two East River communities surrounding it in Hunters Point and Greenpoint. I strive to leave behind a photographic record of what was here when I arrived, documenting the last traces of what was, and showing the origins of what will be. The last time that these sort of paradigm shifts happened in Queens, there were a few photographers working on it, but they were in the employ of government or corporate interests. My archive isn’t.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

May 3, 2015 –
DUBPO, Down Under the Pulaski Bridge Onramp
with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman, a free tour offered as part of Janeswalk 2015, click here for tickets.

May 16, 2015 –
13 Steps Around Dutch Kills with Atlas Obscura

with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman, click here for details and tickets.

May 31, 2015 –
Newtown Creek Boat Tour
with Working Harbor Committee and Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman, click here for tickets.

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 23, 2015 at 11:00 am

heavy boots

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Yeah, Happy Earth Day.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another Earth Day rolls around, wherein large numbers of happy little sophists will gather together in Manhattan Parks and congratulate themselves for separating their trash into “recycling” and “garbage” parcels. They will pat each other on the back, and claim that NYC is the “greenest” and most “resilient” of American cities. You won’t see any of them visiting LIC, or Greenpoint, Maspeth, or Bushwick, or Ridgewood. They won’t think about what happens after they flush their toilets, either.

Few, if any, will find themselves having arrived at the Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

They won’t see the black waters of Newtown Creek’s tributary Maspeth Creek, or smell the battery acid odor of raw sewage as it is entering the waterway. They won’t comment on the illegal dumping, or the true nature and environmental impact of the recycling industry. Greater good, they would say, were they to leave Manhattan.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Few will visit Dutch Kills at low tide, over in LIC. If they did, they would be forced to rationalize the rotten egg smell as being produced by anaerobic microbes. They wouldn’t puzzle over the neon colors of this tributary of Newtown Creek, whose mouth is .75 of a mile from the East River.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

They won’t wander through the borderlands of Brooklyn and Queens to Ridgewood, and witness what the recycling process actually looks and smells like. They won’t worry about what they are breathing either.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Manhattan people like to feel as if they’re doing something to help the environment, and will do so in front of television cameras. They will make a show of discussing the banning of plastic grocery bags, or demand that NYC begins to compost its organics. They won’t realize that this composting has to be done somewhere within throwing distance of their Borough, and that it will carried by truck to some central receiving facility where it will be collected and stored whilst awaiting processing. They don’t know that this area will be somewhere along the Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

They certainly won’t visit the tracks of the LIRR’s Bushwick Branch line, and see the hundreds of filled cargo boxes that compose the “garbage train.” They won’t care that the concentrating point of roughly 30-40% of NYC’s garbage is found on the corner of Varick Street and Johnson Avenue, nor about the thousands of trucks which descend upon it daily.

So – Happy Earth Day, from Newtown Creek.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

May 3, 2015 –
DUBPO, Down Under the Pulaski Bridge Onramp
with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman, a free tour offered as part of Janeswalk 2015, click here for tickets.

May 31, 2015 –
Newtown Creek Boat Tour
with Working Harbor Committee and Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman, click here for tickets.

were related

with one comment

Where do they get all those wonderful toys?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned, one had a series of obligations last weekend causing an absence at HQ. Saturday, I conducted a walking tour for Newtown Creek Alliance exploring the more populous sections of Newtown Creek along the East River. Sunday, NCA was engaged in an event at the North Brooklyn Boat Club (I’ll tell you about that one tomorrow) and after that concluded – my lonely walk home carried me through Hunters Point and the western end of the Queensboro Bridge complex.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s a fairly complex operation, getting a decent shot under Queensboro. Sepulchral shadow cast by the bridge itself is coupled with the crazily bright light pouring in from the surface roads surrounding it. The City uses a few of the areas under the bridge for vehicle and equipment storage, and as an assembly workshop for municipal projects.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This particular scuttle under the bridge revealed that the DOT (presumptively) is assembling street benches here, currently. These aren’t the street benches of my youth, of course, which were the concrete and wood affairs that you’ll still commonly observe in City Parks. These are the new fancy metal jobs. The old school ones once lined the avenues and boulevards of NYC, but were largely removed sometime during the Koch administration to discourage their usage by the homeless.

For one reason or another, the City government has always been obsessed with discouraging vagrants from sitting down or napping, and with persecuting skate boarders. Bicycles on the sidewalk – that’s fine. Go figure.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On a similar note, last week I discovered where the DSNY Litter baskets are kept. A huge number of brand spanking new ones were observed on North Henry street in Greenpoint. Luckily, they haven’t been brought into service yet, as that would mess them up.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

May 3, 2015 –
DUBPO, Down Under the Pulaski Bridge Onramp
with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman, a free tour offered as part of Janeswalk 2015, click here for tickets.

May 31, 2015 –
Newtown Creek Boat Tour
with Working Harbor Committee and Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman, click here for tickets.

that gaze

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A short one for Monday.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It was a pretty busy weekend for a humble narrator, one which has resulted in some minor radiation burns to the epidermis – due to the untrammeled emanations of the burning thermonuclear eye of god itself as I walked the earth. My skinvelope exhibits a ruddy hue today.

Pictured above is mighty Queensboro, with the upstart 432 Park Avenue over in the shining city looming in over her. Back tomorrow with something of a bit more substance, at this, your Newtown Pentacle.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

May 3, 2015 –
DUBPO, Down Under the Pulaski Bridge Onramp
with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman, a free tour offered as part of Janeswalk 2015, click here for tickets.

May 31, 2015 –
Newtown Creek Boat Tour
with Working Harbor Committee and Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman, click here for tickets.

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 20, 2015 at 11:00 am

hither come

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Get on the boat, for #superfun with the Working Harbor Committee.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On May 31, I’ll be narrating on a boat tour of Newtown Creek for the Working Harbor Committee. WHC is offering a special $30 ticket price, discounted to $25 for seniors. It’s a two hour tour which will leave from Pier 11 in Manhattan at 11 a.m. I’m anticipating having a couple of other guest speakers onboard, but that’s still firming up.

For tix to WHC’s morning tour with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman, on Newtown Creek. For group rates, or questions – contact Working Harbor Committee at workingharbor@aol.com

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Maritime History of Newtown Creek is one largely forgotten in these decadent times, but even now an odd tugboat and barge might be spied making their way down the waterway on any given day. 19th century Property owners were considered to have been blessed by some of the finest industrial bulkheads in the world, yet many of the businesses based along the Creek today ignore this invaluable resource, allowing their waterfront property to decay and decline.

Along these bulkheads, great fortunes have risen.

Amongst others- Peter Cooper (BO Railroad, Canton Iron, and Cooper Union), Charles Pratt (Astral Oil, Standard Oil, and Pratt University), and ultimately John D. Rockefeller (Standard Oil) – all grew richer than the dreams of avarice in this place. Alongside them, the darkest mills of the industrial revolution- rendering plants, yeast distilleries, bone blackers, and acid factories provided tens of thousands of jobs to the immigrant populations of Brooklyn and Queens. Today – National Grid, BP, Amoco, ExxonMobil, and a host of other multinational companies still maintain an enormous investment in this valuable industrial canal at the very center of New York City.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Vast operations will be witnessed by those onboard, many of which are involved in the scrap metal and recyclables trade. Responsible for an enormous amount of cross harbor shipping, companies such as SimsMetal are heavily reliant on the maritime trades for their economic success. This is also the the birthplace of Mobil Oil, and was the home base in NYC for the Standard Oil Company.

Not all that long ago, Newtown Creek carried a greater tonnage of cargo than the entire Mississippi River.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A tributary of the estuarine East River, Newtown Creek extends some 3.8 miles from its junction with the more familiar waterway, and provides demarcation for the currently undefended border of much of Brooklyn and Queens. Named to the Federal Superfund list in 2010, the Creek suffers from a centuries long history of environmental degradation and municipal neglect.

An era of great change is upon the Newtown Creek, and this trip will be one of your last chances to be exposed to it in its current form.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

May 3, 2015 –
DUBPO, Down Under the Pulaski Bridge Onramp
with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman, a free tour offered as part of Janeswalk 2015, click here for tickets.

May 31, 2015 –
Newtown Creek Boat Tour
with Working Harbor Committee and Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman, click here for tickets.

untold agony

with one comment

Hoary Greenpoint, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last weekend, the light was spectacular over in Greenpoint, and since I seldom find myself there in the early part of the afternoon – advantage was taken. Manhattan Avenue’s tenements and apartment buildings are framed by Saint Anthony’s Roman Catholic Church in the shot above. St. Anthony’s hosts both a rectory and a convent. The Church is built in the high victorian gothic style, with a 240 foot high steeple, and it laid its cornerstone back in 1873.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Linoleum signage on Manhattan Avenue, for the J. Josephs Sons Co. – a former appliance store. This is vestigial, and part of the character of the street which will shortly be cleansed by the bland homogeneity offered by the Real Estate Industrial Complex’s desire to eradicate all character from the streets of New York City in the name of lining the sidewalks with glass boxes. I cannot imagine what future generations will think.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over on North Henry Street, a seldom seen point of view on the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment plant. This is a quite industrial spot, with a biofuel company and a recycling operation found along the bulkheads of the Newtown Creek. It’s also the “back door” to the sewer plant, where the contractors come and go.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

May 3, 2015 –
DUBPO, Down Under the Pulaski Bridge Onramp
with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman, a free tour offered as part of Janeswalk 2015, click here for tickets.

May 31, 2015 –
Newtown Creek Boat Tour
with Working Harbor Committee and Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman, click here for tickets.

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