The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for November 2010

shocking coruscations

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

Conversation offered by divers and submarine enthusiasts inform this posting, which like your humble narrator, lingers about at Hells Gate.

Explorations of the occluded depths in this area, as reported, reveal a shattered series of reefs and alluvial boulders underlying this region of the East River. In addition there are depressions found in the sediment here, which form enormous cauldron like holes dropping down into the silt choked darkness, and I am informed that such formations are commonly called “pots” by those familiar with such subaqueous geography. Within these pots might be found a hodge podge of archaeological record, but the strong currents above them form venturi effect vortices within, and any who might enter one are considered to be extraordinarily lucky to exit such a feature intact and alive.

from “Myths and Legends of our Own Land, by Charles M. Skinner” at gutenberg.org

Satan appears to have troubled the early settlers in America almost as grievously as he did the German students. He came in many shapes to many people, and sometimes he met his match. Did he not try to stop old Peter Stuyvesant from rowing through Hell Gate one moonlight night, and did not that tough old soldier put something at his shoulder that Satan thought must be his wooden leg? But it wasn’t a leg: it was a gun, loaded with a silver bullet that had been charged home with prayer. Peter fired and the missile whistled off to Ward’s Island, where three boys found it afterward and swapped it for double handfuls of doughnuts and bulls’ eyes. Incidentally it passed between the devil’s ribs and the fiend exploded with a yell and a smell, the latter of sulphur, to Peter’sblended satisfaction and alarm. And did not the same spirit of evil plague the old women of Massachusetts Bay and craze the French and Spaniards in the South?

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Rumors which have persisted since the advent of European colonization suggest that great treasures might by found in these deep eddies and swirling maelstroms of the underwater grottoes. Famously, the wreck of a British ship called “the Hussar” carried a great fortune and many lives down to the bottom of Hells Gate- and the aboriginal inhabitants of the archipelago related stories of a race of giants who originally inhabited these islands that would cross the river by merely stepping across the rocks. Of course, there used to be a lot more rocks, before the Army Corps of Engineers set off the greatest manmade explosion (until Hiroshima) in history to “assure navigability”.

The effort to clear “flat rock”, “frying pan”, “pot rock”, “Flood Rock”, and “Hallet’s Point Reef” was explored in some detail in a Newtown Pentacle Posting of  June 5, 2009- “The River of Sound”, and the enigmatic Hells Gate Bridge and its environs was discussed in some detail in the September 23, 2009 posting “A Bright Passage”.

from “Myths and Legends of our Own Land, by Charles M. Skinner” at gutenberg.org

Back in the days before the Revolution, a negro called Mud Sam, who lived in a cabin at the Battery, New York City, was benighted at about the place where One Hundredth Street now touches East River while waiting there for the tide to take him up the Sound. He beguiled the time by a nap, and, on waking, he started to leave his sleeping place under the trees to regain his boat, when the gleam of a lantern and the sound of voices coming up the bank caused him to shrink back into the shadow.

  • At first he thought that he might be dreaming, for Hell Gate was a place of such repute that one might readily have bad dreams there, and the legends of the spot passed quickly through his mind: the skeletons that lived in the wreck on Hen and Chickens and looked out at passing ships with blue lights in the eye-sockets of their skulls;
  • the brown fellow, known as “the pirate’s spuke,” that used to cruise up and down the wrathfultorrent, and was snuffed out of sight for some hours by old Peter Stuyvesant with a silver bullet;
  • a black-looking scoundrel with a split lip, who used to brattle about the tavern at Corlaer’s Hook, and who tumbled into East River while trying to lug an iron chest aboard of a suspicious craft that had stolen in to shore in a fog.

This latter bogy was often seen riding up Hell Gate a-straddle of that very chest, snapping his fingers at the stars and roaring Bacchanalian odes, just as skipper Onderdonk’s boatswain, who had been buried at sea without prayers, chased the ship for days, sitting on the waves, with his shroud for a sail, and shoving hills of water after the vessel with the plash of his hands.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

A busy industrial corridor in the ominous 21st century, the efforts of engineers have rendered Hell Gate tame and predictable, although one might still observe the occasional spiral eddy and acre wide pools of swirling water near the shorelines on windy days. If one watches carefully, a phastasmagorical plethora of animal forms persists in this part of the river- diving cormorants are common, Birds of Prey are present as are riverine and littoral mammalia, and there are said to be other less well known phyla. Every now and then, one might even encounter a U.F.O. (an Unidentified Floating Object).

Who can guess, after all, what is is that may be hiding down there?

from “HISTORY OF QUEENS COUNTY with illustrations, Portraits & Sketches of Prominent Families and Individuals. New York: W.W. Munsell & Co.; 1882.” at bklyn-genealogy-info.com

Hallett’s purchase at Hell Gate Neck included much of the territory later incorporated as the village of Astoria. The original proprietor lived there to the age of about ninety, and was foremost in many early improvements. He divided his property at that point in 1688 between his sons William and Samuel, the former receiving the lands south of the road Since forming Greenoak Street, St. George’s Place, Welling and Main streets and Newtown avenue, the latter the lands lying north of that road.

It is probable that the Indians who sold Hell Gate Neck to William Hallett were of the Canarsie tribe, a clan of reputed power whose jurisdiction extended over the whole of Kings county, the islands in Hell Gate, and, O’Callaghan says, some part of Newtown. A large tract of land including the southwestern portion of the present city was deeded “to the inhabitants of Newtowne, alias Middleburg,” by Pomwaukon and Roweroenesteo of the above tribe, July 9th 1666.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Indolent, and quite susceptible to environmental stressors, your humble narrator has commented several times about the odd sonic qualities of this patch of the East River. Mighty Triborough never sleeps, and its steel hums continually. Staccato, the traffic over Hells Gate is no less affecting, but it is just not in the same league as the constant oppression of  infrasonic drone emanating from Triborough, or the din of nearby heavy industrial activity on Wards Island.

Here is part of a recording made on May 28th of 2010, directly beneath the Triborough Bridge… using the admittedly poor microphone of an iPhone headset… for your consideration…

from wikipedia

After the war ended, Jaspar Ward and Bartholomew Ward took ownership of the island that later carried their surname. Although a small population had lived on the island since as early as the 17th century, the Ward brothers developed the island more heavily by building a cotton mill and building the first bridge to cross the East River in 1807, connecting the island with Manhattan at 114th Street.

The bridge, paid for by Bartholomew Ward and Philip Milledolar, was a wooden drawbridge. The bridge lasted until 1821, when it was destroyed in a storm.After the bridge was destroyed, the island was largely abandoned until 1840, when the island was transformed into a dumping ground for everything unwanted in New York City. Between 1840 and 1930 the island was used for:

  • Burial of hundreds of thousands of bodies relocated from the Madison Square and Bryant Park graveyards.
  • The State Emigrant Refuge, a hospital for sick and destitute immigrants, opened in 1847, the biggest hospital complex in the world during the 1850s.
  • The New York City Asylum for the Insane, opened around 1863.
  • An immigration station from 1860 until the 1892 opening of Ellis Island.
  • Manhattan State Hospital, operated by the New York State Department of Mental Hygiene when it took over the immigration and asylum buildings in 1899. With 4,400 patients, it was the largest psychiatric institution in the world. The 1920 census notes that the hospital had a total of 6045 patients. It later became the Manhattan Psychiatric Center.

indefinable odors

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

Down by Dutch Kills, one must persevere to maintain some inkling of hope for the future of mankind.

Saying that, however, in its own way Dutch Kills is actually quite a lovely place- as storied industrial centers which have seen better days typically are. A canalized waterway, Dutch Kills is a tributary of that languid cautionary tale known as the Newtown Creek, and has been isolated for several seasons from its principate source by emergency bridge construction and a changing industrial landscape. I’m down here a lot of course, most recently in the “from some point in space” posting of November 3rd, which includes an intriguing set of high elevation shots of the area which I recently managed to capture.

from nyc.gov

Hunters Point Avenue is a two-lane local City street in Queens. Hunters Point Avenue is oriented east-west and extends from 21st Street to the Long Island Expressway/Brooklyn Queens Expressway interchange in Queens. The avenue is parallel to and approximately one block south of the Long Island Expressway. The Hunters Point Bridge over Dutch Kills is situated between 27th Street and 30th Street in the Long Island City section of Queens, and is four blocks upstream of the Borden Avenue Bridge. It is a bascule bridge with a span of 21.8m. The general appearance of the bridge has been significantly changed since it was first opened in 1910. The bridge provides a channel with a horizontal clearance of 18.3m and a vertical clearance, in the closed position, of 2.4m at MHW and 4.0m at MLW. The bridge structure carries a two-lane, two-way vehicular roadway with sidewalks on either side. The roadway width is 11.0m, while the sidewalks are 1.8m wide. The width of the approach roadways vary from the width of the bridge roadway. The west approach and east approach roadways are 13.4m and 9.1m, respectively.

The first bridge at this site, a wooden structure, was replaced by an iron bridge in 1874. That bridge was permanently closed in 1907 due to movement of the west abutment, which prevented the draw from closing. It was replaced in 1910 by a double-leaf bascule bridge, designed by the Scherzer Rolling Lift Bridge Company. The bridge was rebuilt in the early 1980’s as a single-leaf bascule, incorporating the foundations of the previous bridge.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Seldom commented, the Hunters Point Avenue Bridge segments Dutch Kills neatly, and has done so for nigh on a century now. The marshes and streams which once typified the area before the advance of railroad and vast agglutination of industrial installation are long gone, relegated to subterranean sewers and masonry clad spillways, but a century ago- the Hunters Point Avenue Bridge (and its predecessors) allowed egress between the terrestrial isolation of the Long Island City center and the rest of western Queens.

The NY Times, in 1908, commented that Long Island City might someday be known as “A city of bridges” due to the many crossings over the tributaries of the Newtown Creek and the presence of mighty Queensboro at its center.

from federalregister.gov

The Hunters Point Avenue Bridge, at mile 1.4, over the Dutch Kills has vertical clearances of 8 feet at mean high water and 13 feet at mean low water. The existing regulations for the Hunters Point Avenue Bridge in 33 CFR 117.801(d) require the draw to open on signal if at least a one-hour advance notice is given to the drawtender at the Grand Street/Avenue Bridge, the NYCDOT Radio Hotline, or NYCDOT Bridge Operations Office. In the event the drawtender is at the Roosevelt Island Bridge or the Borden Avenue Bridge, up to an additional half-hour delay may occur.

The bridge owner, the New York City Department of Transportation (NYCDOT), submitted bridge opening log data to the Coast Guard for review. The bridge owner plans to operate these bridges with multiple crews of drawtenders. The two-hour advance notice should allow sufficient time for the crews to operate these bridges due to the close proximity of the bridges to each other. Recent yearly openings have been relatively low which will allow the bridge owner to utilize the roving crew concept and still meet the needs of navigation.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The Hunters Point Avenue Bridge (the 1910 version) was configured differently than the modern structure when first built, although the original was constructed for some $95,214 from plans by the Scherzer Rolling Lift Bridge Company with the dirty work performed by the Duseath Engineering Company of 114 Liberty St. NY. As you’d imagine, there is a certain logic behind the esoterica presented about this obscure little bridge found in a literal “industrial backwater” in Queens.

But… I can’t tell you what is is yet…

from nysdot.gov

About 1900, most of the Newtown Creek was bulkheaded and occupied by about fifty industrial properties. Undeveloped or less developed sections without bulkheads included Dutch Kills, about 2,000 feet of shoreline in Queens just above Dutch Kills with two LIRR lighterage piers, about 1,000 feet of shoreline in Queens near the Penny Bridge, and about 3,500 feet of shoreline downstream of Maspeth Avenue in Brooklyn.15 Dutch Kills, and the Queens side of Newtown Creek, just upstream of Dutch Kills, were developed circa 1905-1912, largely through the efforts of the Degnon Terminal & Realty Company. The Degnon firm created an industrial park with rail and marine access around Dutch Kills between about Hunters Point and 47th Avenue, Dutch Kills subsequently was included within USACE dredging projects. Without federal assistance, Degnon created a 150-foot-wide channel with 2,400 feet of bulkhead, including a turning basin. To create rail links to the development, Degnon helped the LIRR build a new 1,000-acre freight terminal circa 1907 along Newtown Creek east of Dutch Kills on property bought from Calvary Cemetery, including several short piers intended to handle heavy freight such as brick, coal, lumber, and ice. From this terminal, a private Degnon Terminal Railroad was created, largely through local streets. On newly filled marshy margins of Dutch Kills, Degnon Terminal & Realty promoted industrial development both on and away from the water. One iron works and several large building materials firms occupied the Degnon waterfront by the early 1920s. Reconstruction of the two movable bridges over Dutch Kills circa 1908-10 contributed to these developments. On other Degnon lots, large firms included the American Eveready Company and the American Chiclet Company, respective makers of  batteries and candy.16 Facilitating this growth was the construction of the Queensboro Bridge (1909) and the start of the operation of the IRT subway line in 1917.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Unfortunately, I can’t announce the news yet… Let’s just say that it would be a good idea to leave the 11th of December open, and that Long Island City is terrible in its grandeur during the winter months.

More on this will be forthcoming by the end of the week.

from wikipedia

Edward Byrne began his civil engineering career in 1886 with the New York City Aqueduct Commission on the construction of the Croton Water Supply System. It is of interest that on this project he met Robert Ridgway, who also was destined to become a distinguished engineer and an outstanding civil servant.

From 1889 to the close of 1897, Byrne worked on highways and bridges for the old Department of Public Works of New York City.

On January 1, 1898, he joined the Department of Bridges and began a striking and noteworthy service which ended in November, 1933, with his resignation from the position of Chief Engineer of the Department of Plant and Structures (the successor of the Bridge Department), in order to assume the duties of Chief Engineer of the Triborough Bridge. His thirty-six years of service in the Department of Bridges, and its successor, the Department of Plant and Structures, may be divided into two periods.

Borden Avenue Bridge

During this period, he was in charge of bridge construction and maintenance, supervising the construction of the Willis Avenue Bridge over the Harlem River, the Vernon Avenue Bridge, the Borden Avenue and Hunters Point Bridges over Dutch Kills, and the old bridge over Flushing River.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Also, as a note:

I get asked all the time what these signs mean, what they indicate, and how seriously they should be regarded. The powers that be don’t make it easy to find out, for despite the “for more information” attribution, the City doesn’t go into much detail at nyc.gov/dep about them. Partly, this is due to the vogue followed by municipal authorities in recent years which allows private contractors to perform public work. The contractor is under no obligation to release their work into the public domain, as government workers are, and many important details about our metropolis ends up hidden behind corporate firewalls.

Here’s a little of the Batman type detection required to penetrate a purposely obtuse subject, which is a skill I’ve been developing over the lifetime of this, your Newtown Pentacle.

Quoting from hydroqual.com

The Bowery Bay WPCP is permitted by the NYSDEC under SPDES permit number NY-0026158. The facility is located at 43-01 Berrian Blvd., Astoria, NY, 11105 in the Astoria section of Queens, on a 34.6 acre site adjacent to the Rikers Island Channel, leading into the Upper East River, bounded by Berrian Blvd. and Steinway Street. The Bowery Bay WPCP serves an area of approximately 16,105 acres in the Northwest section of Queens, including the communities of KewGarden Hills, Rego Park, Forest Hills, Forest Hills Gardens, North Corona, South Corona, Lefrak City, Elmhurst, East Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, Maspeth, Woodside, Sunnyside Gardens, Sunnyside, Hunters Point, Long Island City, Astoria, Astoria Heights, Steinway, Ravenswood, and Roosevelt Island.

and from the same document this text and chart

The Low Level service area contains 46 regulators, of which 19 interconnected regulators discharge to the Newtown Creek during wet weather through the 13 CSOs. Of these 13 CSOs, 6 discharge to the tributary Dutch Kills (BB-004, 009, 010, 026, 040, and 042), and 6 discharge to Newtown Creek(BB-011, 012, 013, 014, 015, and 043). An additional 2-feet, 8-inches x 4-foot outfall, BB-049, is listed in the Bowery Bay WPCP SPDES permit as discharging to Dutch Kills near 21st Street, but no further information is available such as which regulator it is connected to.

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 29, 2010 at 4:12 am

lutes and dancing

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

Wandering aimlessly across the pattern that underlies the streets of Long Island City, a logical course whose every obstacle is modern, one day I found myself in the Empty Corridor. Not so empty as it used to be, for the continuing diversion of traffic away from the Borden Avenue Bridge funnels vast numbers of vehicles through these streets- some of which are still clad in only their original Belgian Block cobbles.

from wikipedia

Public property

  • It is generally legal to photograph or videotape anything and anyone on any public property, with some exceptions.
  • Taking a photograph while on an airplane is banned in many places, and many mass transit systems prohibit taking photographs or videos while on board buses or trains or inside of stations. (It is unknown whether such prohibitions are legal, due to transit systems in the United States often being considered public places.) Photography is against Port Authority rules in New York and New Jersey’s PATH Train system. Photography and videography are also prohibited in the U.S. Capitol, in courthouses, and in government buildings housing classified information. Bringing a camera phone into one of these buildings is not permitted either.
  • Photographing or videotaping a tourist attraction, whether publicly or privately owned, is generally considered legal, unless explicitly prohibited by posted signs.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Always on the lookout for intriguing items to photograph, your humble narrator often finds himself in front of scenes such as this one, and possessed by a paradoxical mindset. On one hand, the artwork which adorns this octagonal stop sign is well wrought, and skillfully placed for maximum esthetic value. On the other, this is vandalism- and it creates a dangerous situation regarding the passage of vehicles through a now unmarked intersection.

Further, I’m often at odds with the ideation of taking photos of such displays at all.

from wikipedia

Private property

Photography may be prohibited and/or restricted within an area of property by the property owner. At the same time, a property owner generally cannot restrict the photographing of their property by individuals who are not located within the bounds of the property.

In order to film on someone else’s property, permission must be received from the owner.

Photographing of privately-owned property that is generally open to the public (i.e. retail) is permitted unless explicitly prohibited by posted signs.

Some jurisdictions have laws regarding filming while in a hospital or health care facility. Where permitted, such filming may be useful in gathering evidence in cases of abuse, neglect, or malpractice.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Public art, even when unsigned, is still considered to be the property of the original artist. Technically speaking, I’m not allowed to “publish” this image without the express permission of the artist and despite the fact that I own the copyright on the image, I can’t transfer or sell it without permission.

Were this posting commercial in nature, in fact, a court of law could assign damages and restitution. Art commissioned and owned by “The State” on behalf of the public is a different matter, and a complicated legal ground that’s ever shifting about. Generally, if it’s owned by the U.S. government and produced before the 1970’s it’s probably in the public domain.

Usually, I just leave this sort of thing to the prolific Ms. Heather over at NY Shitty, as she’s much better at finding new and exciting street art than I and is possessed of a curatorial spirit toward her discoveries.

But this one I couldn’t stop from shooting. Click the image for the larger size, as these are very nicely drawn images.

from wikipedia

Copyright is a set of exclusive rights granted by the law of a jurisdiction to the author or creator of an original work, including the right to copy, distribute and adapt the work. Exceptions and limitations to these rights strive to balance the public interest in the wide distribution of the material produced and to encourage creativity. Exceptions include fair dealing and fair use, and such use does not require the permission of the copyright owner. All other uses require permission and copyright owners can license or permanently transfer or assign their exclusive rights to others. Copyright does not protect ideas, only their expression or fixation. In most jurisdictions, copyright arises upon fixation and does not need to be registered. Copyright protection applies for a specific period of time, after which the work is said to enter the public domain.

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 23, 2010 at 12:15 pm

peace rests nevermore

with 3 comments

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Area wags were abuzz in the days leading up to Wednesday the 17th of November, as a hush hush series of emails suggested that on the morning of the 17th an important and remarkable moment in the long history of Newtown Creek would occur. Your humble narrator braved the stinging winds tormenting the megalopolis that day, and perambulated from raven tressed Astoria to hoary Greenpoint in record time.

Your eyes aren’t fooling you either, those are actual white cap waves on Newtown Creek.

from newtowncreekalliance.org

Newtown Creek has a length of four miles. Its natural depth was 12 feet, falling to four feet at the head of navigation. In the early days its shores presented a beautiful sight. In the background were the hills covered with trees. In the swamps below, the stream and its tributaries had their rise. Broadening on its way, the stream flowed quietly between wooded elevations and further along lowlands until it mingled its waters with the salt of the East River. When the tides met, the backing up of these tides caused the stream to overflow the marshes, and this fact led the Indians to name the waterway “Mispat”, that is, an overflowing tidal stream. An ancient deed from the Indians calls Maspet Kills “Quandoequareous”. The creek abounded with seafood and was also a favorite swimming spot.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Borough President of infinite Brooklyn, Marty Markowitz suddenly appeared and “turned on the high beams”, meeting and greeting with the various dignitaries who were arriving.

from wikipedia

Marty Markowitz (born February 14, 1945) is the Borough President of Brooklyn, New York City, the most populous borough in New York City with nearly 2.6 million residents. Markowitz was first elected borough president in 2001 after serving 23 years as a New York State Senator. His third term began in January, 2010.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Shmoozing while waiting for the event to begin, from left is Paul Gallay, Markowitz, and Senator Martin Malave Dilan. At the far right, seated, is Riverkeeper’s Philip Musegrass.

from nysenate.gov

Elected to the New York State Senate in November, 2002, Martin Malave Dilan is serving his fourth term in the 17th Senatorial District. In an unusual twist for a Senate freshman, Senator Dilan was appointed the Assistant Minority Leader of Conference Operations. In 2007, Senator Dilan was appointed Chairman of the Minority Conference. Continuing his role as a leader, in 2009, Senator Dilan was appointment Senior Assistant Majority Leader. As a Senator representing Brooklyn, Senator Dilan continues his extraordinary career in public service. The 17th Senate District encompasses the North Brooklyn communities of Bushwick, Williamsburg, Greenpoint, Cypress Hills, City-Line, East New York, Bedford-Stuyvesant, and Brownsville.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Then the Governor-Elect of New York State, current Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, arrived.

from wikipedia

Andrew Mark Cuomo (pronounced /ˈkwoʊmoʊ/; born December 6, 1957) is the governor-elect of New York State. He is the 64th New York State Attorney General, in office since January 1, 2007; and was the 11th United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Born in Queens, New York, he is the son of Mario Cuomo, the 52nd Governor of New York (1983–1994). Cuomo graduated from Archbishop Molloy High School in 1975 and went on to Fordham University and Albany Law School. A member of the Democratic Party, he was a top aide to his father during his 1982 campaign for Governor. He then joined the Governor’s staff as one of his father’s top policy advisors, a position he filled on and off during his father’s 12-year governorship. In 1993, he was appointed as an Assistant Secretary in the Department of Housing and Urban Development under President Bill Clinton. He was promoted to Secretary in 1997.

In 2002, Cuomo led an unsuccessful primary campaign for governor of New York, which he withdrew from at the last minute. In 2006 he successfully ran for New York Attorney General, replacing Eliot Spitzer, who won the governorship during the same election. In 2010, Cuomo ran for governor on the Democratic ticket with Rochester Mayor Robert Duffy. On November 2, Cuomo won the election, receiving 62% of the vote.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

I believe this person is Mylan Denerstein (but I may be wrong), a member of AG Cuomo’s team. She introduced the subject of the day, which was that a settlement with Exxon-Mobil had been reached concerning the extent and cost of cleaning up the Greenpoint Oil Spill.

from newtowncreekalliance.org

The Newtown Creek Alliance is happy to announce that the lawsuits brought by the Hudson Riverkeeper and the New York State Attorney General’s Office against ExxonMobil relating to the Greenpoint Oil Spill were settled today.  In a press conference held at the Manhattan Avenue Street End Park, Governor Elect Cuomo announced that the settlement will provide $19,500,000 in community benefit money, $5,500,000 in other penalties that will in large part compensate the state for past and future environmental improvements along the creek, a rigorous remediation plan that includes sediments, groundwater, and soil vapor, and strong enforcement provisions.

This settlement agreement is a giant step forward and reflects respect for a community that has been environmentally overburdened for a very long time. The Newtown Creek Alliance is optimistic that this settlement will mark the beginning of a speedy and inclusive environmental cleanup of the ExxonMobil Newtown Creek oil spill.The Newtown Creek Alliance would like to thank the attorneys at the Hudson Riverkeeper, the Pace Environmental Law Clinic, and the New York State Attorney General’s Office, who have secured this strong settlement agreement for Newtown Creek and its neighborhoods and businesses.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Next up was Paul Gallay, of Riverkeeper.

from riverkeeper.org

Paul has worked for over 25 years to protect the environment and support local communities, as a non-profit executive, public official and educator.

During his thirteen years of service with New York State’s Attorney General and Department of Environmental Conservation, Paul and his colleagues, often working with local watchdogs, shut down unrepentant polluters; expanded programs to reduce contamination in the Hudson; forced sewage plants, landfills and other public facilities to cut pollution and improve management practices; protected Long Island’s drinking water aquifers; and helped transform a former Con Ed brownfield into a major regional paper recycling plant.

After leaving government, Paul served as Westchester Land Trust’s executive director from 2000 to 2008. He and his WLT colleagues helped create the Westchester Open Space Alliance, whose more than two-dozen grass-roots member organizations successfully lobbied for over $45 million in parkland and preserve funding. At the same time, WLT helped protect thousands of acres of sensitive land and successfully pushed for sounder, more sustainable development practices. In 2008, Contribute New York magazine named WLT its top-rated environmental charity in the metropolitan area, for fundraising efficiency, program focus and fiscal soundness.

Before joining Riverkeeper in July 2010, Paul served nearly two years as president of Maine Coast Heritage Trust. During this time, MCHT earned widespread approval for deepening its connection with local communities, supporting coastal entrepreneurs, adding new members and increasing access to its preserves.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Christine Holowacz spoke next…

from nag-brooklyn

Christine Holowacz immigrated to the United States from Poland in 1972. She became involved in environmental issues in the Greenpoint community during the 1980s. President of the Greenpoint Property Owners since 1989, Christine devotes much of her time to issues concerning senior citizen homeowners. She is also the Church of St. Cecilia political and housing coordinator. Christine served on the Greenpoint Community Board #1’s 197a Committee as well as its Rezoning and Kosciusko Bridge upgrade Task Forces. She initiated the first meeting in the successful fight against the proposed Key Span/Con Edison power plant in Greenpoint, leading to the founding of GWAPP, which she co-chairs. She is currently part of the Greenpoint Coalition, St Nicholas Preservation and the Greenpoint Williamsburg Waterfront Task Force, and is the Community Liaison at the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment plant for the Newntown Creek Monitor Committee (NCMC). Christine received the Woman of the Millennium and the Carmine “Dusty” De Chair Community awards from the Seneca Club, (2001 & 2002) for her work with GWAPP and a Citation in 2002 from the Borough President for her work in the Polish Community. She holds a BA in Economics and Accounting from Brooklyn College.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Followed by the big man himself, Andrew Cuomo.

from ag.ny.gov

NEW YORK, N.Y. (November 17, 2010) – Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced a settlement that commits ExxonMobil Corporation (NYSE: XOM) (“ExxonMobil”) to perform a full clean up of its oil spill as well as any related environmental contamination in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. The massive spill has been a source of contamination in the Greenpoint community for decades.

The settlement was filed today in Federal Court in the Eastern District and requires ExxonMobil to pay for the costs of cleaning up the Greenpoint oil spill.

The settlement requires ExxonMobil to conduct a comprehensive cleanup of its oil and related contamination at its Greenpoint facility and in the surrounding community, including oil floating on top of the water table, contaminated groundwater, soil as well as soil vapors. The settlement requires ExxonMobil to keep the cleanup moving forward expeditiously, including specific milestones such as:

  • A plan for identifying the scope of the contamination involving oil, groundwater, soil and soil vapor problems must be created within 90 days of the agreement.
  • A report on groundwater problems must be done within 120 days.
  • A report on soil problems must be done within 180 days.A plan to involve the community must be submitted within 90 days.
  • A report on the status and progress of the cleanup effort must be submitted quarterly and annually.
  • An evaluation of new technology that could be used to speed up the cleanup of the oil must be done within one year.

In addition, the company must also pay approximately $25 million for penalties, costs and improving the local environment. This amount includes a payment of $19.5 million for environmental projects that will benefit the Greenpoint community, which is the largest single payment of its kind in New York’s history.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The Governor Elect waxed enthusiastic about the settlement, claiming it to be a landmark.

also from ag.ny.gov

“For far too long, residents of Greenpoint have been forced to live with an environmental nightmare lurking just beneath their homes, their businesses and their community,” said Attorney General Cuomo. “With this settlement, ExxonMobil will be held accountable for fully cleaning up this environmental disaster. This settlement also repairs the damage to the community and will help make it a cleaner and healthier place to live.”

In the late 1970s, oil spills from ExxonMobil’s Greenpoint refinery and storage facility were discovered seeping into Newtown Creek, creating a plume of oil floating on top of the water table. Some of the oil dissolved in the groundwater and contaminated surrounding soil. It is estimated that at least 17 million gallons of oil were released underneath Greenpoint and that at least 55 acres of the community are now contaminated as a result.

The approximately $25 million that ExxonMobil will pay under the settlement will be distributed as follows:

  • $19.5 million will fund “Environmental Benefit Projects” that will benefit the environment in Greenpoint.
  • $1.5 million will go to New York State to compensate for past cleanup costs related to the spill.
  • $3.5 million will be available for future oversight costs.
  • $250,000 in penalties will be deposited in New York’s Oil Spill Cleanup Fund and Marine Resources Account.
  • $250,000 in damages will be used to fund projects to compensate for the damaged natural resources in Greenpoint.

An independent outreach coordinator will be hired to ensure community participation in identifying priorities for the local environmental benefits projects to be funded.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

also from ag.ny.gov

This settlement with ExxonMobil does not incorporate the investigation and cleanup of Newtown Creek because it is a federally-designated Superfund site and is therefore being addressed by the Federal government. The state does, however, reserve all of it rights with respect to the Newtown Creek.

Attorney General Cuomo thanked Riverkeeper, community groups, and officials whose commitment to the cleanup of the ExxonMobil spill and the Greenpoint community set the stage for today’s settlement.

Congresswoman Nydia M. Velazquez said, “I am proud to join Attorney General Cuomo today to share this great news for our community. For too long, Newtown Creek has been a symbol of environmental catastrophe, and many had written it off as a lost cause. Today however, we are turning this into a symbol of hope, restoration and community partnership. Along with my colleagues here today, I will continue fighting for the people of the 12th Congressional District to protect our environment and our neighborhoods.”

Congressman Anthony Weiner said, “This is a victory for the environment, our community and the rule of law. The responsibility for this mess is firmly and finally placed where it should be.”
State Senator Martin Malav* Dilan said, “I applaud Attorney General Cuomo for fighting the good fight and holding those responsible for this pollution accountable. Throughout my entire career, I have been a strong supporter of environmental causes. I am proud of the community for banding together and standing behind Greenpoint and Newtown Creek, as we worked to change the tide of more than a century of industrial negligence. I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues and Attorney General Cuomo as we begin to clean up Newtown Creek and return it to Greenpoint, cleaner and safer for future generations”

Assemblyman Joseph R. Lentol said, “Attorney General Cuomo has done our community a great service by holding ExxonMobil accountable for its pollution in Greenpoint. We must protect our waterfronts and ensure that future generations are able to enjoy our community’s full potential. I thank Attorney General Cuomo for his service and look forward to working with him in the future.”
Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz said, “I commend our Attorney General and next Governor, Andrew Cuomo, for joining us in this fight to hold ExxonMobil accountable and for standing up for Brooklyn and protecting our environment. In 2006, I was proud to join Riverkeeper, local activists and elected officials in a legal action against ExxonMobil over the massive Greenpoint oil spill, and I am pleased that the lawsuit-and the subsequent action taken by the Attorney General-led to the superfund designation earlier this year.”

Acting Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation Peter Iwanowicz said, “This was the largest oil spill in New York state history and this settlement mandates a comprehensive cleanup for the first time ever in this long-running saga. Previous actions addressed only the underground oil. But, now ExxonMobil must not only continue to pump out the oil but also address all ‘media’ groundwater, soil and air. Further, the settlement also means that ExxonMobil will fund the largest Environmental Benefit Project in state history — bringing tangible improvements directly to the Greenpoint area. My thanks to all the DEC and Attorney General’s staff that worked diligently to bring this to fruition”

Executive Director of Hudson Riverkeeper Paul Gallay said, “Today marks an historic turning point for the people of Greenpoint in their long struggle to reclaim their neighborhood from its legacy of industrial pollution. This cleanup agreement is the result of a strong partnership between Riverkeeper and the Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic, who first brought attention to the oil spill, Attorney General Cuomo whose actions were critical to settling these lawsuits, and of course dedicated Greenpoint residents and local elected officials, who supported us over the last eight years.”

Co-Chair of Greenpoint Waterfront Association for Parks and Planning (GWAPP) Christine Holowacz said, “As a longtime resident of Greenpoint, I am thankful to Attorney General Cuomo for reaching such a landmark settlement. The Attorney General’s settlement not only makes ExxonMobil pay to clean up their toxic mess, but it will also empower local citizens to work cooperatively toward the restoration of their community.”

Director of the Newtown Creek Alliance Katie Schmid said, “This settlement agreement is a giant step forward and reflects respect for a community that has been environmentally overburdened for a very long time. The agreement promises funding for community supported environmental projects, a thorough remediation of the oil spill and substantive mechanisms for enforcement. The Newtown Creek Alliance is optimistic that this settlement will mark the beginning of a speedy and inclusive environmental cleanup of ExxonMobil’s Greenpoint oil spill. We appreciate the hard work and dedication of the Office of the Attorney General and the Hudson Riverkeeper, which have secured this strong settlement agreement for Newtown Creek and its neighborhoods and businesses.”

- photo by Mitch Waxman

also from ag.ny.gov

This settlement will resolve claims from a lawsuit Attorney General Cuomo initiated against ExxonMobil in July 2007 for their violation of the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, the federal Clean Water Act, and state law with respect to the Greenpoint oil spill. The settlement is subject to final review by U.S. District Judge Kiyo Matsumoto of the Eastern District of New York.

The Office of the Attorney General will hold a public meeting to discuss the settlement at the Polish Slavic Center (176 Java St., Brooklyn) on November 23 from 6:30 to 9 p.m.

This case was handled by Acting New York City Chief of the Environmental Protection Bureau Eugene Leff, Assistant Attorney General Todd Ommen, and New York City Chief Scientist Jodi Feld, under the supervision of Executive Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice Mylan Denerstein. Department of Environmental Conservation Executive Deputy Commissioner Stuart Gruskin and General Counsels Benjamin Conlon and Alison Crocker assisted with the case.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The ceremony over, the attending politicians gathered into a group for the attendant cadre of professional press and photographers to create a record of the event.

from wikipedia

A photo op (sometimes written as photo opp), short for photograph opportunity (photo opportunity), originally referred to an opportunity to take a memorable and effective photograph of a politician, a celebrity, or a notable event. Among amateur photographers, the term is used to refer to any opportunity to take good photos.

The term was coined by the administration of US President Richard Nixon. William Safire credited its coinage to Bruce Whelihan, an aide to Nixon Press Secretary Ron Ziegler. Ziegler would say Get ‘em in for a picture, and Whelihan would dutifully announce to the White House press room, There will be a photo opportunity in the Oval Office. The term has acquired a negative connotation, referring to a carefully planned pseudo-event, often masqueraded as news. It is associated with politicians who perform tasks such as planting trees, picking up litter, and visiting senior citizens, often during election cycles, with the intent of photographers catching the events on film, generating positive publicity.

Among nearly ritual photo ops are those when participants of a summit get out of their cars, shake hands or kiss, or sign a document. Formal, pre-planned photography sessions in the White House date back to the 1930s, when Franklin Roosevelt’s press secretary advised photographers to avoid taking photos of the President in a wheelchair.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The center of attention, of course, was on the Governor Elect, and he was shortly surrounded by cameras and microphones. The other politicians slipped away, undoubtedly to other obligations. The press began peppering him with questions, many of which had nothing to do Newtown Creek or the agreement with ExxonMobil.

from wikipedia

The Exxon Mobil Corporation, or ExxonMobil, is an American multinational oil and gas corporation. It is a direct descendant of John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil company, and was formed on November 30, 1999, by the merger of Exxon and Mobil. Its headquarters are located in Irving, Texas.ExxonMobil is one of the largest publicly traded companies in the world, having been ranked either #1 or #2 for the past 5 years. However they are currently 4th according to Forbes Global 2000. Exxon Mobil’s reserves were 72 billion oil-equivalent barrels at the end of 2007 and, at then (2007) rates of production, are expected to last over 14 years. With 37 oil refineries in 21 countries constituting a combined daily refining capacity of 6.3 million barrels, Exxon Mobil is the largest refiner in the world, a title that was also associated with Standard Oil since its incorporation in 1870.

ExxonMobil is the largest of the six oil supermajors with daily production of 3.921 million BOE (barrels of oil equivalent). In 2008, this was approximately 3% of world production, which is less than several of the largest state-owned petroleum companies. When ranked by oil and gas reserves it is 14th in the world with less than 1% of the total.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The 4th estate crowded in around the current Attorney General, and I began to lose interest as the questions turned to appointments in his forthcoming Gubernatorial administration and requests for commentary on various State and City issues.

from epa.gov

Area Characterization and Spill History: The northeast area of Greenpoint, the northwestern-most community in Brooklyn, New York has been heavily industrialized and the site of various petroleum industries for more than 140 years. The industrial history of this section of Brooklyn dates back to the 1830s. Large quantity petroleum storage and refining were some of the predominant activities in this area in the 1860s. An 1844 map of the area shows where Newtown Creek had been partially filled, and much of the area that has been historically used for oil storage and refinery operations is located on this fill. Petroleum refining within the Greenpoint area began in approximately 1866. By 1870 more than 50 refineries were located along the banks of Newtown Creek. This tidal area of salt marshes along the creek was reportedly severely impacted and saturated by the waste discharges of the industries and refineries in the area in the late 1800s.

In 1892, the majority of the area refineries were purchased and consolidated into the Standard Oil Trust. Following the breakup of the Trust in 1911, ownership of the refinery property in Greenpoint reverted to the Standard Oil Company of New York (SOCONY), and these operations became the SOCONY Brooklyn Refinery. SOCONY later became Mobil Oil Corporation, which later became Exxon/Mobil Corporation, referred to below as Exxon/Mobil. Refinery operations at the former Mobil Brooklyn Refinery ceased in 1966. The refinery was subsequently demolished, and significant portions of the refinery property were sold. Several of the subdivided lots were retained by Mobil Oil Corporation, while the other lots were sold to Amoco Oil Company and others. The lots retained by Mobil were utilized as a petroleum bulk storage terminal until 1993, when storage operations ceased at the property. Amoco Oil Company (currently BP, referred to below as BP/Amoco) constructed a bulk fuel storage terminal on its portion of the property that began operation in late 1969 and which continues in operation today. In addition to the petroleum facilities on the former Mobil site, the Paragon Oil Company occupied a portion of the site. Paragon Oil was a wholly-owned subsidiary of Texaco Oil, now Chevron Corporation (ChevronTexaco). Paragon operated an oil storage terminal at this location until approximately 1969, when Peerless Importers purchased the property and constructed a warehouse for its operations.

Prior to 1947, the ground water under Brooklyn was the sole source of the Brooklyn Municipal Water System. This system pumped huge quantities of water and caused a significant decline in ground water levels in that area. The pumping was so heavy that it created a large “cone of depression” (an area where the ground water levels are depressed due to pumping) in the ground water and is believed to have reversed the direction of flow of ground water away from Newtown Creek toward the pumping station. In the past 60 years since the pumping station closed down, the ground water levels have recovered and the direction of the flow has reversed back toward Newtown Creek. Since 1947 the ground water in Brooklyn has not been used as a source of public drinking water.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s when this tugboat, the Brian Nicholas oozed into the scene, and it smoothly navigated the lugubrious waters of the Newtown Creek. Some 75 feet long, with a gross tonnage of 104 GRT, the Brian Nicholas is a creature of DonJon towing whose motive power is supplied by 2 850 HP engines that was built in 1966 and retrofitted in 2010.

from docs.google.com

This past June, Donjon completed the top-to-bottom refit and replacement of the main engines, generators, gears and related equipment of its tug Brian icholas. The refit was performed in house at Donjon’s Port Newark, New Jersey facility under the supervision of Donjon’s Gabe Yandoli and Robert Stickles. As a result of the refit, the Brian Nicholas is now a “green” tug, compliant with all applicable EPA and Tier 2 marine emissions regulations.

The rebuild included a repowering of the main propulsion with Cummins K38-M Marine engines, which were specifically developed by Cummins to meet EPA and Tier 2 marine emissions regulations. The new engines also meet the IMO, MARPOL and EU Stage 3A requirements. Similarly, the generators were upgraded to incorporate John Deere 4045TFM75 engines, also Tier 2 compliant. In addition to the replacement of the aforementioned engines, the project required virtually total replacement of exhaust lines and routing of new control lines and panels in the engine room and wheelhouse.

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 22, 2010 at 4:46 pm

curious ears

with one comment

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Newtown Creek Alliance HQ is hidden away somewhere on, near, or under the Creek- I’m not allowed to say where or which. I can tell you that it bears an astounding resemblance to the “Hall of Justice” that appeared on the 1970’s cartoon “Super Friends”.

We’ve got the whole thing- a hangar for the invisible (and intangible) jet, full garage for the Creekmobile, and several submersible vehicles equipped with advanced Riverkeeper technology (which they reclaimed from a sunken U.S.O.- an unknown submersible object). There’s a big red phone with a single button under a glass bell, and while it’s not the only place in these parts where you can get away with wearing a mask and cape it is certainly the friendliest. We have no wonder twins, however.

One day recently, whilst on duty at the Troublealert console, your humble narrator received word that the powers that be from the world beyond Newtown Creek would be gathering and had requested that a representative of NCA make a statement.

File:Hall of Justice.jpg

from wikipedia

The Hall appeared in the very first episode of the Super Friends series, which premiered on September 8, 1973. It was originally drawn by Al Gmuer, background supervisor for Hanna-Barbera for more than 30 years. Gmuer modeled the fortress after the famous Union Terminal in Cincinnati, Ohio, train station turned museum. The Hall, located in Metropolis, serves as the central meeting point for the Super Friends. The Hall contains the Trouble Alert, a computerized monitoring station that would warn the heroes of a new threat. The Hall also houses a giant computer that the Super Friends use to analyze clues.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Specific need for a certain grasp of the totality of the situation around the Creek, not the expert legal and environmental knowledge or community outreach and organization which the Newtown Creek Alliance normally shares with the powers that are, was requested. Since the big guns were out of town or otherwise busy, it was decided that I should go.

In this collection of Super Friends- I’m, of course, Gleek the super monkey.

from wikipedia

Gleek is a blue “space monkey” and the pet of Zan and Jayna, the Wonder Twins. Gleek is often used as comic relief for the series, as the character often gets into mischief. A joke involving Gleek often ends episodes of the Super Friends in which he appears. Gleek has a stretchable, prehensile tail which can be quite useful. Gleek is also highly intelligent, as he clearly understands spoken English, even somewhat complicated concepts such as the various stages of simple strategic planning. He communicates through the use of sign language, acting out scenes, and chattering in an unintelligible alien tongue. Gleek also helps the Twins when they need to travel: Jayna becomes an eagle, Zan becomes water, and Gleek produces a bucket to hold Zan while Jayna carries them both

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Luckily, my perennial and nervous need to arrive early paid off, and I was able to bend the ear of a member of the House of Representatives! Carolyn Maloney also arrived a few minutes early and we discussed the situation along Newtown Creek- during which I pointed out certain landmarks, quoted from a few official studies, and we both marveled at the enormous number of blue collar jobs which are provided by businesses along the waterway.

Rep. Maloney opened the event, invited me to the microphone, and I read the following prepared statement on behalf of the Newtown Creek Alliance:

“My name is Mitch Waxman and I am representing the Newtown Creek Alliance. We welcome Representative Maloney’s concern for Dutch Kills. The waterway is a major arm of Newtown Creek. A cleanup of the local waterways would be incomplete if this body of water does not receive full attention during the testing process.”

from wikipedia

Carolyn B. Maloney (born February 19, 1946) is the U.S. Representative for New York’s 14th congressional district, serving since 1993. She is a member of the Democratic Party. The district, popularly known as the “silk stocking district”, includes most of Manhattan’s East Side; Astoria and Long Island City in Queens; and Roosevelt Island.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The Borough President of Queens, Helen Marshall next came to the microphones. The genesis of this event is a concern amongst the political leaders of Queens that a historical pattern which dictates that Queens gets a lesser share of Government allocations and funding, the “short end of the stick” so to speak, doesn’t repeat itself during the cleanup phase of the ongoing EPA Superfund process. This is no paranoid fantasy, incidentally, for despite being the largest borough with the most sizable population- Queens is often left with a half empty plate when the roast is carved up amongst the Boroughs. Manhattan and Brooklyn always seem to get the biggest portion, and the Bronx and Staten Island are going back for seconds, before Queens is even served.

from wikipedia

Helen Marshall was elected Queens Borough President in 2001 succeeding the term-limited Claire Shulman. Prior to being elected Borough President, Marshall served on the New York City Council from 1992 to 2001, an office she vacated due to term limits. Prior to being a city councilwoman, Marshall served for nine years in the New York State Assembly. In both the City Council and State Assembly, Marshall represented Queens.

As Borough President, Marshall has made marketing Queens as a tourist destination one of her priorities.In 2005 Marshall won a second term, defeating her Republican and Conservative challenger Philip T. Sica with 75% of the vote to his 25%. She was inaugurated to her second term as President of the Borough of Queens on January 3, 2006 in a ceremony held at Terrace on the Park in Flushing Meadows Corona Park. Marshall outlined her plans for the next four years including health care, education, housing and new park projects.

On July 1, 2009 she appointed Dennis M. Walcott to the reconstituted New York City Board of Education. The Board then voted to name Walcott as president of the board.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

As the press conference proceeded, various political players filtered in. State Assemblyman Michael Gianaris, as pictured above was the first to arrive.

from wikipedia

Michael N. Gianaris (born 1970) is a New York Assemblyman representing District 36, which comprises Astoria, Long Island City, Queensbridge and Ravenswood, among other neighborhoods located in the New York City borough of Queens. He is the first Greek-American to be elected to office from New York City. Gianaris has been mentioned as a possible candidate for New York’s 14th congressional district.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Also on hand were members of the Dutch Kills Civic Association, and in all the excitement I missed the name of the gentleman with the glasses and blue shirt but I can tell you that the fellow at the microphone is Gerald Walsh- President of DKCA.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan spoke next. This was the first time I met her, but she seemed nice.

from wikipedia

Catherine Nolan (born March 12, 1958) is an New York Assemblywoman, elected in 1984 to represent the 37th district (covering the Sunnyside, Ridgewood, Astoria, Woodside, Long Island City, Maspeth, Queensbridge, Ravenswood, Dutch Kills and Blissville neighborhoods).

A resident of the district for most of her life, she is a graduate of St. Aloysius R.C. School and Grover Cleveland High School. Ms. Nolan graduated from New York University cum laude with a BA degree in Political Science.

She was first elected to the Assembly in 1984. Assemblywoman Nolan is a member of the Democratic leadership in the Assembly and has served as Chair of both the Labor and Banking Committee during her career. Although no longer on the Labor Committee, Nolan has continued to push legislation which protects workers rights in New York State.In January 2006, Assemblywoman Nolan was appointed as Chair of the Assembly Standing Committee on Education. Nolan is also a member of the highly influential Rules and Ways & Means Committee.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The press conference concluded after City Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer spoke.

Note: I should mention that I’ve had a couple of instances, concerning Astoria business, that have brought me into contact with his office. Limited experience with both his staff and the Councilmember himself have left me a BIG Jimmy Van Bramer fan.

from wikipedia

Jimmy Van Bramer is a member of the New York City Council. He was elected to the New York City Council to represent the 26th district on November 3, 2009. He represents Woodside, Sunnyside, Long Island City, Astoria, and Maspeth.

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 20, 2010 at 9:53 pm

previous recollections

leave a comment »

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Recently, I was obliged to meet up with a couple of guys from Williamsburg when they asked me to guide them through some of the Newtown Creek’s less well known attractions. My pithy reply was that I would be straddling the border of Brooklyn and Queens, and they should just meet me there- at the venerable Grand St. Bridge. I walked there from Astoria in record time, arriving quite a bit earlier than I had anticipated.

Luckily the morning was crisp, my coffee was hot, and the burning thermonuclear eye of god itself was shining strongly- which afforded me with a nice opportunity me to do a little shooting.

Note: I’m never sure how to describe the actual act of photography. Shoot, capture, take- all somewhat violent terms which don’t really fit the action. Sniper techniques do transfer neatly into telephoto work, exhaling while triggering the shutter and all that, but… it’s all rather soldier sounding isn’t it?

from wikipedia

Photography is the process, activity and art of creating still or moving pictures by recording radiation on a radiation-sensitive medium, such as a photographic film, or electronic image sensors. Photography uses foremost radiation in the UV, visible and near-IR spectrum.[1] For common purposes the term light is used instead of radiation. Light reflected or emitted from objects form a real image on a light sensitive area (film or plate) or a FPA pixel array sensor by means of a pin hole or lens in a device known as a camera during a timed exposure. The result on film or plate is a latent image, subsequently developed into a visual image (negative or diapositive). An image on paper base is known as a print. The result on the FPA pixel array sensor is an electrical charge at each pixel which is electronically processed and stored in a computer (raster)-image file for subsequent display or processing. Photography has many uses for business, science, manufacturing (f.i. Photolithography), art, and recreational purposes.

As far as can be ascertained, it was Sir John Herschel in a lecture before the Royal Society of London, on March 14, 1839 who made the word “photography” known to the whole world. But in an article published on February 25 of the same year in a german newspaper called the Vossische Zeitung, Johann von Maedler, a Berlin astronomer, used the word photography already. The word photography is based on the Greek φῶς (photos) “light” and γραφή (graphé) “representation by means of lines” or “drawing”, together meaning “drawing with light”

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Surreal, the waters around the Grand Street Bridge teem with that alien colour which typifies and describes the industrial hinterlands of that annihilation of innocence which is called the Newtown Creek. For an extensive description and history of this spot, a busy automotive and truck crossing in modernity, click the following for the Newtown Pentacle posting “a Grand Journey in DUGSBO

from nyc.gov

Grand Street is a two-lane local City street in Queens and Kings Counties. Grand Street runs northeast and extends from the Brooklyn Queens Expressway in Brooklyn to Queens Boulevard in Queens. The road is known as Grand Street west of the bridge and Grand Avenue east of the bridge. The bridge is located between Gardner Avenue in Brooklyn and 47th Street in Queens. The Grand Street Bridge is a 69.2m long swing type bridge with a steel truss superstructure. The general appearance of the bridge remains the same as when it was opened in 1903. The bridge provides a channel with a horizontal clearance of 17.7m and a vertical clearance, in the closed position, of 3.0m at MHW and 4.6m at MLW. The bridge structure carries a two-lane two-way vehicular roadway with sidewalks on either side. The roadway width on the bridge is 6.0m and the sidewalks are 1.8m wide. The height restriction is 4.1m. The approach roadways are wider than the bridge roadway. For example, the width of Grand Avenue at the east approach to the bridge (near 47th Street) is 15.11m.

The first bridge on this site, opened in 1875, quickly became dilapidated due to improper maintenance. Its replacement, opened in 1890, was declared by the War Department in 1898 to be “an obstruction to navigation.” Following a thorough study, a plan was adopted in 1899 to improve the bridge and its approaches. The current bridge was opened on February 5, 1903 at a cost of $174,937.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

While pondering the atypical number of 19th century suicides which occurred here, a flock of geese happened along in this so called urban desert and distracted me from my usual morbid soliloquy. They were pecking at the manmade bulkheads, skimming for waterline plant life.

from wikipedia

The Canada Goose was one of the many species described by Linnaeus in his 18th-century work Systema Naturae. It belongs to the Branta genus of geese, which contains species with largely black plumage, distinguishing them from the grey species of the Anser genus. The specific epithet canadensis is a New Latin word meaning “from Canada”. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the first citation for the ‘Canada Goose’ dates back to 1772. The Cackling Goose was formerly considered to be a set of subspecies of the Canada Goose.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Nearby was this enormous creature, balancing on one foot . Unfortunately, it wasn’t disposed toward looking my way, despite my best Brooklyn exclamation of “hey, boid, overs here’s”. When a tractor trailer blew by, it suddenly exploded upward.

from wikipedia

New York dialect is predominantly characterized by the following sounds and speech patterns:

Vowels

  • The low back chain shift The /ɔ/ vowel sound of words like talk, law, cross, and coffee and the often homophonous /ɔr/ in core and more are tensed and usually raised more than in General American. Labov (1966) describes this pattern as varying on a scale from [ɔ] to [ʊ]. An inglide typically accompanies higher variants giving [oə] or [ʊə].  /ɑ/ in father and /ɑr/ in car are backed, diphthongized, and sometimes rounded to [ɑə] or [ɒə]. The result is that card in New York can be similar to cod in parts of New England. In addition, a subset of words with /ɒ/ as in lot feature a lengthened and diphthongized variant, [ɑə]. This variant may appear before a word final voiced stop, /dʒ/, or /m/ (e.g., cob, cod, cog, lodge, bomb). It also occurs variably before voiced fricatives (e.g., bother), /ʃ/ (e.g., wash), and in the words on, John, and doll (Wells 1982: 514).
  • The short-a split There is a class of words, with a historical short-a vowel, including plan, class, and bad, where the historical /æ/ is raised and tensed to an ingliding diphthong of the type [eə] or even [ɪə]. This class is similar to, but larger than, the BATH lexical set, in which Received Pronunciation uses the so-called broad A. Other words, such as plaque, clatter, and bat, retain a lax, low-front [æ], with the result that bad and bat have different vowels. A related (but slightly different) split has occurred in the dialect of Philadelphia. Although the lax and the tense reflexes of /æ/ are separate phonemes in these dialects, their distribution is largely predictable. See Phonemic æ-tensing in the Mid-Atlantic region for more details.
  • /oʊ/ as in goat does not undergo fronting; instead, it remains [oʊ]. This groups New York with the “North” class of dialects rather than the “Midland”, in which /oʊ/ is fronted. Relatedly, /uː/ as in goose is not fronted and remains a back vowel [uː] or [ʊu]. This lack of fronting of /oʊ/ and /uː/ also distinguishes New York from nearby Philadelphia. Some speakers have a separate phoneme /ɪu/ in words such as tune, news, duke (historically a separate class). The phonemic status of this vowel is marginal. For example, Labov (1966) reports that New Yorkers may contrast [duː] do with [dɪu] dew though they may also have [dɪu] do. Still, dew is always [dɪu] and never [duː].
  • Diphthongs The nucleus of the /aɪ/ diphthong is a back and sometimes rounded vowel [ɑ] or [ɒ] (right as [ɹɑɪt]) and the nucleus of the /aʊ/ diphthong is a front vowel [æ] (rout as [ɹæʊt]). The sociolinguistic evidence (Labov 1966) suggests that both of these developments are active changes. The fronted nucleus in /aʊ/ and the backed nucleus in /aɪ/ are more common among younger speakers, women, and the working and lower middle classes.
  • pre-r distinctions New York accents lack most of the mergers before medial /r/ that many other modern American accents possess:
    • The vowels in marry [mæri], merry [mɛri], and Mary [meri] ~ [mɛǝri] ~ [mɛri] show either a two- or three-way contrast.
    • The vowels in furry /fɜri/ and hurry /hʌri/ are distinct.
    • Words like orange, horrible, Florida and forest are pronounced /ɑrəndʒ/ and /fɑrəst/ with the same stressed vowel as pot, not with the same vowel as port as in much of the rest of the United States.
  • Merger of /ɜr/ and /ɔɪ/: One of the stereotypes of New York speech is the use of a front-rising diphthong in words with /ɜr/ (e.g., nurse). This stereotype is popularly represented in stock phrases like “toity toid” for thirty-third. The phonetic reality of this variant is near [ɜɪ]. This variant may also appear in words with /ɔɪ/ (e.g., choice), resulting in verse and voice as homophones. The diphthongal variant for /ɜr/ is highly stigmatized. Labov’s data from the mid-1960s indicated the form was recessive then. Only two of his 51 speakers under age 20 used the form as compared with those over age 50 of whom 23 out of 30 used the form. Items with /ɔɪ/ may occur with [ɜr] (e.g., [tɜrlət] toilet), apparently as a result of hypercorrection. Younger New Yorkers (born since about 1950) are likely to use a rhotic [ɜr] in bird even if they use non-rhotic pronunciations of beard, bared, bard, board, boor, and butter.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Turns out it’s a heron. Go figure, a heron at Newtown Creek.

from wikipedia

The herons are wading birds in the Ardeidae family. There are 64 recognised species in this family. Some are called egrets or bitterns instead of herons. Within the family, all members of the genera Botaurus and Ixobrychus are referred to as bitterns, and—including the Zigzag Heron or Zigzag Bittern—are a monophyletic group within the Ardeidae. However, egrets are not a biologically distinct group from the herons, and tend to be named differently because they are mainly white and/or have decorative plumes. Although egrets have the same build as the larger herons, they tend to be smaller.

The classification of the individual heron/egret species is fraught with difficulty, and there is still no clear consensus about the correct placement of many species into either of the two major genera, Ardea and Egretta. Similarly, the relationship of the genera in the family is not completely resolved. However, one species formerly considered to constitute a separate monotypic family Cochlearidae, the Boat-billed Heron, is now regarded as a member of the Ardeidae.

Although herons resemble birds in some other families, such as the storks, ibises and spoonbills, they differ from these in flying with their necks retracted, not outstretched. They are also one of the bird groups that have powder down.

Some members of this group nest colonially in trees; others, notably the bitterns, use reedbeds.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s it for today, over the weekend I’ll be thrilling you with recent encounters your humble narrator has had with the political class who rule over New York City.

Also, please buy a copy of our book- Newtown Creek, for the vulgarly curious- here. Every copy sold contributes directly to sustaining and maintaining this- your Newtown Pentacle.

from wikipedia

Grand Street is a street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York City, United States. The Grand Street (BMT Canarsie Line) subway station serves the corner of Grand Street and Bushwick Avenue. Crossing English Kills into Queens, Grand Street becomes Grand Avenue, continuing through Maspeth where it is a main shopping street, to Elmhurst. Its northern end is at Queens Boulevard. Broadway continues the thoroughfare north and west.

History

In the 19th century, before the construction of the Williamsburg Bridge, the Grand Street Ferry connected Grand Street, Brooklyn to Grand Street, Manhattan. The Grand Street Line was a streetcar line along the road.

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 19, 2010 at 1:46 pm

narcotic flowers

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the many things which both torment and delight my imaginings is the notion of some foreign plague or hostile bacterium hitching a ride into New York Harbor onboard a ship.

In 1863, the city fathers enacted the “General Quarantine Act” due to similar fears. Political upheavals in Europe and Asia resulted in a lot of people seeking a more peaceful and profitable future and heading to North America. Many of these peasant pilgrims were weakened or crippled by ordeal and famine, and sometimes from an infectious disease. It was feared that if just one plague carrier became lost in the crowded tenements of Manhattan, something “biblical” would ensue, something which anointing the door with lamb’s blood couldn’t help you out with.

If the New Yorkers of 1863 were afraid of something… well, the City’s immune system ain’t what it used to be, y’know…

from tlcarchive.org

In 1864, the commercial avenues of the area were paved with cobblestones which, in turn, provided deep cracks in which refuse collected and rotted. But the streets were “very filthy” with accumulations of manure from the horses that traversed the area, dead dogs, cats and rats, household and vegetable refuse that in winter accumulated to depths of three feet or more. “Garbage boxes,” rarely emptied, overflowed with offal, animal carcasses, and household waste. “Pools” of stagnant water collected in the carcasses of dead animals, and over sewer drains that were generally clogged. “Filth of every kind [were] thrown into the streets, covering their surface, filling the gutters, obstructing the sewer culverts, and sending forth perennial emanations which must generate pestiferous diseases,” reported William Thomas, the Sanitary Inspector for the district. “Drainage is generally imperfect, the courtyards being … below the level of the streets” and “everything is thrown into the street and gutters at all times of the day.” While poorly designed sewers had been installed throughout the region, most of the population depended upon the outdoor “water closets” and privies in the courtyards of the tenement buildings, close to wells used for drinking.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

As early as 1755, the redoubtable stewards of New York Harbor were working on this issue, when an ordinance was passed demanding that all ships seeking entrance to the harbor must first be inspected by physicians and that all ships bearing contagion be quarantined at Bedloe’s Island. Bedloe’s, of course, is known as Liberty Island to modernity. 1795 is the beginning of the paper trail which eventually transmogrifies into the The New York City Department of Public Health and Mental Hygiene, when the first death records are filed for the 718 Yellow Fever victims that died that year. It wasn’t until 1866 that a Metropolitan Board of Health was formed, which was the same year that a Cholera outbreak was controlled by the “Disinfectant Corps” of Dr. Stephen S. Smith.

Tuberculosis, however, accounted for nearly 20% of all deaths in New York City.

from wikipedia

An infectious disease is a clinically evident illness resulting from the presence of pathogenic microbial agents, including pathogenic viruses, pathogenic bacteria, fungi, protozoa, multicellular parasites, and aberrant proteins known as prions. These pathogens are able to cause disease in animals and/or plants. Infectious pathologies are also called communicable diseases or transmissible diseases due to their potential of transmission from one person or species to another by a replicating agent (as opposed to a toxin).

Transmission of an infectious disease may occur through one or more of diverse pathways including physical contact with infected individuals. These infecting agents may also be transmitted through liquids, food, body fluids, contaminated objects, airborne inhalation, or through vector-borne spread. Transmissible diseases which occur through contact with an ill person or their secretions, or objects touched by them, are especially infective, and are sometimes referred to as contagious diseases. Infectious (communicable) diseases which usually require a more specialized route of infection, such as vector transmission, blood or needle transmission, or sexual transmission, are usually not regarded as contagious, and thus are not as amenable to medical quarantine of victims.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Outbreaks of Cholera in New York City during the 19th century carried staggering death tolls, equivalent statistics for the modern population of 8 million calculate that 100,000 people would be snuffed out by a modern outbreak of the bacterial illness. Modern antibiotics and medical techniques have put reigns on Cholera, but it still ravages the populations of the developing world where such luxuries as sanitary waste water disposal, clean drinking water, and private privy rooms are beyond the reach of most. The class of diseases that keep me up at night though are the hemorrhagic fevers, caused by seemingly demonic entities like the Arenaviridae, Filoviridae, Bunyaviridae, and Flaviviridae families of virii.

from wikipedia

  • The Arenaviridae include the viruses responsible for Lassa fever and Argentine, Bolivian, Brazilian and Venezuelan hemorrhagic fevers.
  • The Bunyaviridae include the members of the Hantavirus genus that cause hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome (HFRS), the Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever (CCHF) virus from the Nairovirus genus, and the Rift Valley fever (RVF) virus from the Phlebovirus genus.
  • The Filoviridae include Ebola and Marburg viruses.
  • Finally, the Flaviviridae include dengue, yellow fever, and two viruses in the tick-borne encephalitis group that cause VHF: Omsk hemorrhagic fever virus and Kyasanur Forest disease virus.
  • The most recently recognized virus capable of causing hemorrhagic fever is Lujo virus, a new member of the arenaviruses described in 2009 and found in South Africa.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

In 1879, conditions around the Hunters Point and Blissville sections of the Newtown Creek were infamous. The distilleries which lined the Queens banks produced a series of waste products, known collectively to the locals as “swill”, which was fed to a sickly group of cows and pigs imprisoned in overcrowded and hellish stables. Pneumonia and open sores were reported by state inspectors, and they intimated that animal waste was observed as mingling with the water in great abundances. The “swill milk” produced by these cattle was, of course, cheaper than more wholesome substitutes and meant for the children of the poor. The situation drew much attention at the time, and there is even an illustrated view of the conditions available at the National Institutes for Health, presented below (click image for full size).

The caption reads “The cholera breeders in New York and vicinity, how pigs and cows are kept at Blissville and Hunter’s Point.”

Who can guess, all there is, that might be buried down there… and what might be waiting to escape from a centuries long quarantine… in the deep sediments of the Newtown Creek?

from epa.gov

EPA conducted an Expanded Site Investigation (ESI) of Newtown Creek in 2009 as part of the Hazard Ranking System scoring process for NPL listing under Superfund. Based on the ESI, which was focused on Newtown Creek itself and not its tributaries, EPA concluded that metals, volatile organic compounds, and semi-volatile organic compounds (including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and polychlorinated biphenyls) were present in Creek sediments at elevated concentrations. The variety and distribution of the detected contaminants suggests that they originated from a variety of sources. Previous environmental investigations of Newtown Creek, or specific portions of the Creek, also disclosed that sediments in Newtown Creek are contaminated by a wide variety of hazardous substances. Environmental investigations of upland parcels adjacent to or nearby the Creek have disclosed contamination of those parcels by hazardous substances similar to hazardous substances found in sediments in Newtown Creek.

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 18, 2010 at 3:44 am

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