The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for November 2011

frightful pull

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

During the hot part of the summer of 2011, Kevin Walsh was planning one of his Second Saturday tours, and as your humble narrator had agreed to assemble the tour booklet for the outing- I was along for the ride, which is how I ended up in in Brooklyn (the “lands of my boit”). My mom used to refer to this intersection of Flatbush and Church Avenues at “flatboosh and choich” when I was a kid, spoke in hushed tones about “the shawpping dat uzed to be dere”, and my dad avoided it like the plague because of the traffic.

The highlight of my trip to Brooklyn that day was that I was going to Lovecraft Country.

Here’s what Mr. Kevin Walsh of forgotten-ny said about the place

Flatbush Dutch Reformed has had three incarnations: a wood structure built on orders from Governor General Peter Stuyvesant in 1654, a stone building in 1699, and the current one built from Manhattan schist dating to 1798. The churchyard goes back to the church’s very beginnings and contains stones inscribed in both English and Dutch. Among the many stained glass windows are a few by Louis Comfort Tiffany. The tower contains a clock and bell that are dated 1796, plus a 10-bell chime that was cast by the Meneely Foundry of Troy, N.Y., and installed in 1913.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

For those of you who are not enormous nerds, H.P. Lovecraft was a writer who lived in Brooklyn for awhile, but he always longed for his New England homeland. Weird Fiction was his bag, and his work survived him. H.P was a dedicated long distance walker, and an amateur historian who made the best of his time in New York visiting significant and historically interesting sites all over the City.

“Lovecraft Country” is a fan term for the fictional locations and mythic locales described so vividly by the author, and refers to coastal Massachusetts more often than not. In Brooklyn though, things are real, and so is “Lovecraft Country”.

from wikipedia

Flatbush Dutch Reformed Church Complex, also referred to more simply as the Flatbush Reformed Church, is a historic Dutch Reformed church (now a member of the Reformed Church in America) at 890 Flatbush Avenue and 2101-2103 Kenmore Terrace in Flatbush, Brooklyn, New York. The complex consists of the church, church house, parsonage, and cemetery. The congregation was founded in 1654. The 2 1⁄2-story stone church building was constructed in 1796 and features a stone tower with stone belfry. The stained glass windows are by Tiffany studios and commemorate the descendants of many early settlers of Flatbush. The church house is a 2 1⁄2-story red brick and limestone building. The parsonage is a 2 1⁄2-story wood-frame house moved to its present site in 1918. The cemetery is the last resting place of most of the members of the early Dutch families of Flatbush. The earliest legible grave marker dates to 1754.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

While exploring the place for myself, as Kevin (and Newtown Pentacle’s Far Eastern Correspondent Armstrong) was dying from heat exhaustion and taking cover in the shade of a venerable oak, one thing that gained my attention were the names on the stones. Suydam, Martense… These are character names from some of Lovecraft’s stories. Lovecraft saw evil in New York City, and was terrified by the tight quarters and crowded streets which distinguished the immigrant era. (He was of course, kind of a racist, very much a product of his time- don’t forget how common such tribalism was, and how novel and new the non ethnocentric and very all inclusive “progressive politique and so called meritocracy” is).

Kevin and Armstrong both guzzled water, but I was not parched and required only further explorations.

H.P. Lovecraft said

My coming to New York had been a mistake; for whereas I had looked for poignant wonder and inspiration in the teeming labyrinths of ancient streets that twist endlessly from forgotten courts and squares and waterfronts to courts and squares and waterfronts equally forgotten, and in the Cyclopean modern towers and pinnacles that rise blackly Babylonian under waning moons, I had found instead only a sense of horror and oppression which threatened to master, paralyse, and annihilate me.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the places which comes up again and again in his writings is this very churchyard, apparently it left quite the impression upon Lovecraft, and inspired his story “The Hound”. He confessed to desecrating this graveyard, incidentally, which is strictly against Newtown Pentacle policy.

This is also why I don’t guzzle water while in graveyards, as such quaffing will inevitably result in the need for urination, which might lead to desecration.

(First Calvary in Queens has two well maintained and world class public lavatories at the entrance gates, btw.)

H.P. Lovecraft was actually here in 1922

On September 16, 1922, Lovecraft toured the Flatbush Reformed Church in Brooklyn with his friend Rheinhart Kleiner, writing about the visit in a letter:

Around the old pile is a hoary churchyard, with internments dating from around 1730 to the middle of the nineteenth century…. From one of the crumbling gravestones–dated 1747–I chipped a small piece to carry away. It lies before me as I write–and ought to suggest some sort of horror-story. I must place it beneath my pillow as I sleep… who can say what thing might not come out of the centuried earth to exact vengeance for his desecrated tomb? And should it come, who can say what it might not resemble?[

- photo by Mitch Waxman

This particular parcel of “Lovecraft Country” has an awful lot of New York City history associated with it, Peter Stuyvesant and the “Degenerate Dutch” and all that. Road extensions of a toll road called Flatbush Avenue past a watch tower… Frankly, the sort of “historian history” which your humble narrator always bolloxes up. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Rob Schweiger, Brooklyn’s borough historian, and he can offer a far more cogent history of this place than I can. So can the oft mentioned Kevin Walsh.

I can tell you a lot about Newtown Creek and it’s locale, but this part of colonial Brooklyn ain’t my bag.

from “the Lurking Fear”, courtesy hplovecraft.com

No one outside the backwoods had believed these varying and conflicting stories, with their incoherent, extravagant descriptions of the half-glimpsed fiend; yet not a farmer or villager doubted that the Martense mansion was ghoulishly haunted. Local history forbade such a doubt, although no ghostly evidence was ever found by such investigators as had visited the building after some especially vivid tale of the squatters. Grandmothers told strange myths of the Martense spectre; myths concerning the Martense family itself, its queer hereditary dissimilarity of eyes, its long, unnatural annals, and the murder which had cursed it

- photo by Mitch Waxman

I don’t know why I’m always drawn to cemetery trees, a humble narrator will confess, but there’s always something about these vegetable growths fed by an obvious and morbid nutrition. An ominous portent, a spooky resonance, a dissonant note. For some reason, my perception leads me to see shapes in their whorls and crags, shapes which form into recognizable “things”- much like searching for the shape of a dragon in cloud formations.

The scientifically minded call it Pareidolia.

from “The Horror at Red Hook”, courtesy hplovecraft.com

Suydam was a lettered recluse of ancient Dutch family, possessed originally of barely independent means, and inhabiting the spacious but ill-preserved mansion which his grandfather had built in Flatbush when that village was little more than a pleasant group of colonial cottages surrounding the steepled and ivy-clad Reformed Church with its iron-railed yard of Netherlandish gravestones.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

I don’t think I get enough sleep, that’s what it is. It renders me highly suggestible, and perhaps I should drink some more water, and follow Mr. Walsh’s example when visiting “Lovecraft Country“.

from wikipedia

Oneirophrenia is a hallucinatory, dream-like state caused by several conditions such as prolonged sleep deprivation, sensory deprivation, or drugs (such as ibogaine). From the Greek words “ὄνειρο” (oneiro, “dream”) and “φρενός” (phrenos, “mind”). It has some of the characteristics of simple schizophrenia, such as a confusional state and clouding of consciousness, but without presenting the dissociative symptoms which are typical of this disorder.
Persons affected by oneirophrenia have a feeling of dream-like unreality which, in its extreme form, may progress to delusions and hallucinations. Therefore, it is considered a schizophrenia-like acute form of psychosis which remits in about 60% of cases within a period of two years. It is estimated that 50% or more of schizophrenic patients present oneirophrenia at least once.

loose and displaced

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

Recent activities had carried your humble narrator to… Staten Island… A friend’s photography was included in a gallery exhibit at the venerable Snug Harbor, and wishing to both show support for another photographer and to witness his work in print form- I began the long journey from Astoria in Queens to the outermost of boroughs. After exiting the ferry, I was titillated by the sudden appearance of the gargantuan “Hanjin Lisbon” being guided toward the Kill Van Kull by two Moran tugs.

from marinetraffic.com

  • Hanjin Lisbon Vessel’s Details
  • Ship Type: Cargo
  • Year Built: 2003
  • Length x Breadth: 278 m X 40 m
  • DeadWeight: 67979 t
  • Speed recorded (Max / Average): 21 / 20.6 knots (20.6 knots = 23.7060566 mph)

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Like all the ocean going vessels of its type, the Lisbon is a lumbering monster of a ship. Nearly 1,000 feet in length, the cargo ship was most likely headed to the Port facilities at Newark Bay, and requires the use of tender boats to navigate the relatively narrow and hazard fraught coastal leg of its journey to New York harbor from some impossibly foreign port. It’s titan engines and onboard electronics can propel the ship through open ocean with great accuracy, of course, but the giant cargo ship can’t exactly “stop on a dime”.

from marinetraffic.com

MARION MORAN Vessel’s Details

    • Ship Type: Tug
    • Year Built: 1982
    • Length x Breadth: 39 m X 12 m
    • DeadWeight: 10 t
    • Speed recorded (Max / Average): 14.5 / 8.9 knots
    • Flag: USA [US]
    • Call Sign: WRS2924
    • IMO: 8121812, MMSI: 366941020

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Tugboat and towing services of the modern era, like Moran towing, are inheritors of centuried wisdom passed down from generations of mariners. The complex currents, mores, and eddies of the harbor are well known to the crews of these vessels and their job includes guiding such massive visitors to the port into safe harborage. Two tugs were observed at work, the Marion Moran and the Gramma Lee T. Moran.

from tugboatinformation.com

Moran Towing began operations in 1860 when founder Michael Moran opened a towing brokerage, Moran Towing and Transportation Company, in New York Harbor. In 1863, the company was transformed from a brokerage into an owner-operator of tugboats when it purchased a one-half interest in the tugboat Ida Miller for $2,700. Over time Moran acquires a fleet of tugboats. It was Michael Moran who painted the first white “M” on a Moran tugboat stack, in 1880.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Iconic, Moran tugs are distinguished their large white “M” logo and the white and maroon “color way” which allows them to be identified at great distances across the harbor. Like all tugs, they are built with highly reinforced steel superstructures and powerful engines that allow them to pursue an occupation which requires the ability to precisely handle tonnages which are clumsy and thousands of times their own weight.

from morantug.com

The LEE T. MORAN is an expression of brute power and utility that belies the refinements of technical engineering below her waterline. There, twin ports are cut into the steel hull to make room for the tug’s Z-drive units. On the floor of the shop they look like the lower units of giant outboard engines. Made by Ulstein, a subsidiary of Rolls-Royce, the Z-drive functions much like an outboard. Imagine two outboards extending straight down through the hull, each having the ability to rotate 360 degrees. That makes even a heavy, 92-foot tug with a 450-ton displacement very maneuverable. “It can turn on a dime,” says Doughty. “The hull bottom is slightly flatter to adjust to the two drive units. By turning each drive out 90 degrees, the captain can go from full-ahead (14 knots) to a dead stop in no time.”

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Containerized shipping is what makes the modern world tick, of course, and has enabled the business model of “just in time delivery” to take hold. The steel boxes which adorn the Lisbon’s decks will be unloaded by Gantry Crane at the dock and will find their way onto either rail or truck for delivery to the final consignee. What isn’t commonly known about these cargo ships is that ordinary people can book passage onboard, finding accommodation in a variety of staterooms, and cruise the world on a proverbial “slow boat to china”.

from hanjin.com

Hanjin Shipping (http://www.hanjin.com President& CEO Young Min Kim) is Korea’s largest and one of the world’s top ten container carriers that operates some 60 liner and tramper services around the globe transporting over 100 million tons of cargo annually. Its fleet consists of some 200 containerships, bulk and LNG carriers.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The mind reels at such suggestions, and your humble narrator is both titillated at the notion of meeting and interacting with the sailors onboard (undoubtedly Koreans, Tagalog, and Chinese- citizens from all over the manufacturing hubs of the Pacific) and terrified by the lore and knowledge they must carry with them about the true nature of the world. Often these cargo ships will encounter pirates, terrorists, and other malingering forces on both the open sea and in coastal waters. Perhaps they have other experiences, of the sort which sailors do not discuss with outsiders, which only a hip pocket flask of raw whiskey might pry out of them.

from wikipedia

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey was formed in 1921 and the Newark Bay Channels were authorized by the Rivers and Harbors Acts in 1922. Shipping operations languished after the war, and in 1927, the City of Newark started construction of Newark Airport (now known as Newark Liberty International Airport) on the northwest quadrant of the wetlands which lay between Port Newark and the edge of the developed city. Port Authority took over the operations of Port Newark and Newark Airport in 1948 and began modernizing and expanding both facilities southward. In 1958, the Port Authority dredged another shipping channel which straightened the course of Bound Brook, the tidal inlet forming the boundary between Newark and Elizabeth. Dredged materials was used to create new upland south of the new Elizabeth Channel, where the Port Authority constructed the Elizabeth Marine Terminal. The first shipping facility to open upon the Elizabeth Channel was the new 90-acre (36 ha) Sea-Land Container Terminal, which was the prototype for virtually every other container terminal constructed thereafter.

The building of the port facility antiquated most of the traditional waterfront port facilities in New York Harbor, leading to a steep decline in such areas as Manhattan, Hoboken, and Brooklyn. The automated nature of the facility requires far fewer workers and does not require the opening of containers before onward shipping.

mighty temples

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

The neo gothic handiwork of architect Morrell Smith is hard to miss as one moves about Queens Plaza, and it is known to all as the former Bank of Manhattan Tower. Formerly the tallest structure in the borough of Queens at 14 stories (roughly 210 feet), the 1927 vintage building has since been dwarfed by the Citibank Megalith at Court Square. Smith was a noted architect of the early 20th century and had his hands in more than one landmarked structure in Queens (and Manhattan), and his projects also included the notable Jamaica Savings Bank which is found further east.

Crenellated, its spire carries a clock.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Personal observation has revealed that these clocks are seldom if ever accurate, and often they do not match up with each other. My understanding, gleaned from municipal and real estate industrial complex propaganda, is that the hidden mechanisms which drive these clocks are undergoing some sort of restoration as is the rest of the building- although specific detail remains elusive. The building itself is another one of the “black holes” in the historical record which distinguish western Queens- a noteworthy structure erected to serve a high profile company sited in a prominent location which is nevertheless relegated to an architectural footnote because its location is outside of Manhattan.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Your humble narrator acknowledges that, as always, whenever the subject of Queens Plaza and it’s locale comes up one must refer to the hierophants at the Greater Astoria Historical Society- however- one does not wish to stand on the shoulders of others forever and I have resisted making inquiries with them about the place. Unfortunately, independent research has offered little surcease to my curiosity about the clock tower or offered the deeper story and meaning of this building. Rumors of late 20th century bacchanals and Astorian apocrypha about certain rites conducted in its lofty heights during the thunder crazed nights of the the second world war era notwithstanding, there is a dearth of information available for me to share with you about the place. An open call is therefore made to you, Lords and Ladies of Newtown, for any information which might serve to inform your fellow citizenry on this enigmatic structure.

metempsychoses and shudders

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

Abjurations of fealty to self interest aside, your humble narrator is suffering some sort of delirium these days. Wandering thoughts and an inability to maintain focus plague my waking hours, and certain hallucinatory visions experienced during the nocturne haunt. Conversation has become difficult to follow or respond to, and paranoid imaginings or unheralded agitations at obviously minor issues color my days with fear, aggression, and anxiety. All I can see lying before me is devastation, hopelessness, and a slouching path leading to destruction.

I’m all ‘effed up.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Were it possible that I could just be like the humans who infest this great hive, satisfied with loping along the streets whilst spouting colorful aphorisms, pronouncing vainglorious affirmations of personal worth. If only adorning myself with gaudy baubles or tailored garments, reflecting the height of current taste and fashion, could allow surcease from the diabolical internal dialogues which torment and disabuse. Such adolescent fury and desire is unacceptable in an adult, let alone one whose beard has gone white.

The waste meadows are where I belong, their devastating loneliness and abandonment mirror my own.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Apotheosis finds a home here, along the tributaries of the Newtown Creek. Artifice is struck down by the concretized reality of hubris, and the shape of the future can be discerned in studying the past. Notions such as this force me into a separate form of existence which is ruled by the dark emotions of fear, resentment, and anger. Such is my lot then, to exist as the broken, the barren, and at the dazed and disappointed edge of man’s world.

I must find contentment in my role as Outsider, it would seem.

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 17, 2011 at 11:34 am

vague stones and symbols

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

A caprice which your humble narrator enjoys, long have I referred to this part of the Newtown Creek as “DUGABO” – an abbreviation for “Down Under the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge Onramp“. Historically, this has always been home to companies who deal in the refining and distribution of fuel- whether it was spermaceti oil, coal, natural gas, or petroleum. Standard Oil had a base here, and it’s modern day incarnation as Exxon Mobil is still very much present in the locale.

A long history of fires and industrial accidents surround DUGABO, from the Locust Hill and Sone and Fleming refinery fires in the 1880’s to a 1919 immolation which consumed the bridge itself. Standing in the middle of this area of concentrated wealth and industry, however, is a 9 story tall enigma.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

425 Greenpoint Avenue is the address of this structure, and its bold face designates itself as “The Miller Building”.

Like many of the enormous factory structures which grace the Newtown Creek Watershed, its original purpose has been lost to changing economic times and in modernity it serves as a self storage warehouse. The building is visible from great distance, and for those of involved in the history of Newtown Creek- something of a mystery. Even my departed friend Bernard Ente, whose encyclopedic knowledge of Newtown Creek was legendary, was stumped as to its original purpose. It looks for all the world like a grain terminal. It’s not.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

First hand accounts from current occupants of the building offered few clues to its origins, although descriptions of an ad hoc pet cemetery located on its grounds tantalize with their wild suggestions. It is located in a petrochemical center, a poured concrete structure which is at a minimum 90 years old and some 9 stories in height (which is remarkable in itself), and stands on some of the most valuable real estate (from a early to mid 20th century point of view) in New York City.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

All the usual sources, including the estimable database maintained by the NYC Department of Buildings, return few if any results on its origins. this is often the case with older structures that were built in the so called outer boroughs around the time of “consolidation” and I’m sure that somewhere in the Brooklyn Borough Hall there must exist a record of the place in the atavist files of the City of Brooklyn- but I have not been able to find them. Accordingly, an attempt has been made to “beat the brush” amongst the many historical enthusiasts I have been fortunate enough to meet over the last few years.

T.J. Connick, a scholar who I’ve never met in person and know only from the vast interwebs, has been immensely helpful in the endeavor and is singled out for generously adding to the research effort.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Modern cohorts who run a large petro chemical business based on Kingsland Avenue responded to my queries about the Miller Building with “it used to be a glue factory” as late as the 1970’s. In fact, many Greenpointers will repeat this, as a 20th century glue and varnish factory was housed here which was legendary for its effluent smells. The earliest mention I’ve been able to find about the place, and which surely discusses the antecedent of the modern structure, is in a 1911 trade journal.

From Paint, oil and drug review, Volume 52 , courtesy google books

Unknown cause, Tuesday, July 11, destroyed the plant of the Charles Miller varnish works, at Greenpoint avenue and Newtown Creek, Brooklyn. The flames threatened surrounding factories, but the firemen kept the blaze confined to the doomed building. At the time there were but few employes in the place, and they escaped without injury. The damage was estimated at $3,000.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Logically- the modern Miller Building must have been erected sometime in the eight years between the 1911 fire and a conflagration in 1919 known as “The Standard Oil fire”. “The Miller building” discussed in the link below is obviously the modern structure.

From 1919’s Insurance newsweek, Volume 20, courtesy google books

Across the street from this plant is the Miller Building, which is fireproof and has wired glass windows. This building was undamaged, and prevented the fire from reaching the buildings of the Green Point Storage Co., in which are stored naval supplies such as resin and tar. The New York fire insurance companies also had lines on this risk. A remarkable fact was that no one was killed. This was probably due to the fact that exploding oil does not have the force of powders, and also much less concussion. The tanks that were blown, however, were twisted and torn as if some colossal force had thrown them down from a great height. The blazing oil which ran about in rivulets was a constant menace to the other tanks. The office of the Standard Oil Co., which was supposed to have been of fireproof construction, was destroyed, but most of the important records were saved.

Additionally, the 1919 fire was explored here at your Newtown Pentacle, in the posting “Tales of Calvary 11- Keegan and Locust Hill“.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

T.J. Connick, in answer to my queries about the Miller Building, sent along these fascinating tidbits which are presented as received:

  • Charles A. Miller appears, as described in my previous email, as father to Charles Clifford Miller.
  • It appears that Charles A Miller and Mrs. raised family at 128 Kent Street. Mr. & Mrs. were active in the Third Church (Universalist). Daughter Hattie was Sunday school teacher. Florence I. Miller appears at the address, class of 1903 at Pratt Institute. Maybe it’s Hattie, maybe some other relation.
  • Mrs. Charles A Miller’s obit appears in July 2, 1901 Brooklyn Eagle (p.2). Her name was Justice Liberty Miller – no joke. She died at 43.
  • Oct 26, 1913 Brooklyn Daily Eagle (page 2) reports on marriage of Charles Clifford Miller. He married Hazel Walrath of Fort Plain, NY in Universalist Church ceremony in her home town. He was described as head of Eclipse Box & Lumber Company (this located 425 Greenpoint), member of Northport Yacht Club (his yacht the 30-foot Dutchess), and motorist.
  • The couple planned to make their home at 13 Greenway Terrace, Forest Hills (Queens)
  • Subdued affair due to recent death of his father Charles Miller “prominent manufacturer of Brooklyn and a widely known Universalist.”
  • Advertisement appeared in New York Lumber Trade Journal of May 1, 1921
    “FOR SALE or LEASE Planing Mill & Lumber Yard
    Tel. 1803 Greenpoint Charles C. Miller
    425 Greenpoint Ave. Brooklyn NY
  • I also found description of Charles C. Miller where the author states that he Miller had recently joined Eclipse Box after association with Eclipse Oil Works.
  • Charles A Miller (presumably his father) appears in 1911 Directory of Directors in City of New York: Miller, Charles A. with Standard Oil Co., 425 Greenpoint Ave., Brooklyn
  • Charles Clifford Miller died in Fall of 1945 at home in Forest Hills.
  • Miller’s a common name; makes searches tough. Eclipse Box & Lumber a definite, and Charles Clifford Miller’s association established in the wedding report in the Eagle, and by industry items in some trade journals from 1904 onwards. As regards “varnish” connection, Miller was flexible with his operation. A 1904 report indicated that his business was providing wood shavings to the gaslight industry in the neighborhood. The leftovers were used to make boxes, hence Eclipse Box & Lumber. Boxes were varnished, why not make your own? Same for Glue, etc.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Connections with the Universalist sect track- in 1913, as the 425 Greenpoint Avenue address was given in a Universalist journal for a “Recording Secretary” named Ida Ritter East at the address. My bet would be that old man Miller was listing his office address, and that Ida was his actual secretary- but that’s idle supposition.

Connick’s postulations are also confirmed by this link which offers the address of Eclipse Box and Lumber at the selfsame 425 Greenpoint.

Eclipse seemed to have been sharing the space with other companies as early as 1917, if one believes the testimony of one Charles M. Bopp. Manhattan Briar Pipe Co. was on site as late as 1919, according to this scanned newspaper.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

A fairly reliable source, in 1912’s THE EASTERN DISTRICT of BROOKLYN, Eugene Armbruster listed:

“Eclipse Oil Works, Newtown Creek. The Eclipse Box & Lumber Company, Greenpoint Avenue. American Varnish Company, Greenpoint Avenue” as having occupied this part of the Newtown Creek waterfront.

Additionally, the Universalist creed of Charles A. Miller seems to be confirmed in this outtake from a Brooklyn Citizens Almanac of 1894:

Third Universalist of Reconciliation— North Henry st., near Nassau av.; org. 1857; Pastors. Alice Kinney Wright and Alfred Ellsworth Wright, 206 North Henry St.; Chas. A. Miller, Sec, 128 Kent St.; membership, 33; sittings. 300; S.S. Supt, C. H. Palmateer, 159 Dupoht St ; S.S. membership, 146; value of property, 88,000; Trustees: C. H. Palmateer, C. A. Miller, A. P. Howard, J. W. Moore, Chas. E. Lund and Jas. English.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Connick, it seems, is a force to be reckoned with. Thank you, T.J.

Personally speaking, I’m still not satisfied, and feel as if the Miller Building has defeated me. How, exactly, does an obviously significant structure such as this escape the historical record so successfully? Newtown Creek is in many ways a black hole as far as the aforementioned record goes, but this is frankly ridiculous… Grrr.

My hope would be that one of you, the knowledgeable lords and ladies of Newtown, will read this post and have some mercy upon a humble narrator- sharing some anecdote or family history that will put a face of some kind on this place. I can always be reached at this address.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Thanks, again, to T.J. Connick. At least have an idea who “Miller” was, and some of the texture of what happened in and around this mysterious structure which rises high above the Newtown Creek.

As far as the latter day history of the building, I think the picture says it all.

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 15, 2011 at 12:15 am

dark and stern

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

Just the other day, one observed this crow walking down the center median of the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge. For the purposes of nomenclature, we’ll refer to him as the Grey Crow. Even by the standards of their kind, this particular Crow seemed seedy and more than a little “off”. For those of you new to the ongoing story of the Crows- if a piece of metal, or a mattress, or anything shiny- finds its way to the sidewalk anywhere in western Queens or North Brooklyn, itinerant metal collectors like this gentleman sweep in and grab it. Soiled and blackened by their occupation, these foot soldiers of recycling then make their way to one of the several scrap metal dealers in the neighborhood, where they sell the materials at market rates and by the pound. Often, these fellows won’t wait for metals to reach the curbside midden, and they will harvest whatever metals they might happen across- as recently documented by Ms. Heather at NY-shitty.com.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

While one applauds the industry of the Crows, for they are a hard working bunch who operate in an invisible and unspoken economy at the absolute bottom of the economic spectrum, they are often the proverbial “rats in the walls” of our community. One need only walk through one of the 22,000 square acres of cemetery which distinguish western Queens to see the effects of their actions. Monument and mausoleum are part of their harvest, and the valuable white bronze and copper adornments which have been pried loose from century old graves are testament to their actions. Of late, manhole and gas main covers have been part of their harvest. The Grey Crow didn’t seem to be carrying any of this illicit cargo, but these sullen and solitary men (they are almost always men) are opportunist scavengers nibbling in at the edges of civilization.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Dark in aspect and mood, existing at the edge of law and society, the Crows are growing in population- no doubt due to the worsening economic conditions which have been felt by all. This Grey Crow drew my attention due to the reckless manner in which he crossed the busy Greenpoint Avenue Bridge, walking down the center median of the traffic choked span which crosses the malign Newtown Creek between Blissville in Queens and Greenpoint in Brooklyn. Like many of his kind, when he observed a shabby man in a black trench coat pointing a camera at him, sneering commentary and verbal threats were offered to that photographic mendicant, who remains as always- your humble narrator.

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 14, 2011 at 11:38 am

groves and gardens

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

Yesterday, being the 10th of November, your humble narrator found himself at the Brooklyn Navy Yard for the opening of the Building 92 museum, a newly public space at that venerable institution found on the Wallabout.

from bldg92.org

The mission of the Brooklyn Navy Yard Center at BLDG 92 is to celebrate the Navy Yard’s past, present and future, and to 
promote the role the Yard and its tenants play as an engine for job creation and sustainable urban industrial growth. By providing access to exhibits, public tours, educational programs, archival resources and workforce development services, BLDG 92 reinforces the Yard’s unique bonds with the community and inspires future generations to become industrial innovators and entrepreneurs.

The Brooklyn Navy Yard Center at BLDG 92 is an exhibition and visitors center that is operated as a program of the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

One of my associates from the Working Harbor Committee had brought me along, and upon arriving, I was handed a rather elaborate press kit. Said kit included facts and glad tidings about the new museum, which is housed in a renovated 1857 era structure.

from wikipedia

On the eve of World War II, the yard contained more than five miles (8 km) of paved streets, four drydocks ranging in length from 326 to 700 feet (99 to 213 meters), two steel shipways, and six pontoons and cylindrical floats for salvage work, barracks for marines, a power plant, a large radio station, and a railroad spur, as well as the expected foundries, machine shops, and warehouses. In 1937 the battleship North Carolina was laid down. In 1938, the yard employed about ten thousand men, of whom one-third were Works Progress Administration (WPA) workers. The battleship Iowa was completed in 1942 followed by the Missouri which became the site of the Surrender of Japan 2 September 1945. On 12 January 1953, test operations began on Antietam, which emerged in December 1952 from the yard as America’s first angled-deck aircraft carrier.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The press event began with a naval color guard and pledge of allegiance, after which a group of kids were led on stage. The aim of the museum is of an educational nature, which made their presence seem appropriate.

from wikipedia

The Wallabout became the first spot on Long Island settled by Europeans when several families of French-speaking Walloons opted to purchase land there in the early 1630s, having arrived in New Netherland in the previous decade from Holland. Settlement of the area began in the mid-1630s when Joris Jansen Rapelje exchanged trade goods with the Canarsee Indians for some 335 acres (1.36 km2) of land at Wallabout Bay, but Rapelje, like other early Wallabout settlers, waited at least a decade before relocating fulltime to the area, until conflicts with the tribes had been resolved.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

All the best people from the Manhattan establishment were there, including Mayor Mike Bloomberg and Christine Quinn, Speaker of the City Council.

from  “A history of the city of Brooklyn : including the old town and village of Brooklyn, the town of Bushwick, and the village and city of Williamsburgh” by Gabriel Furman, 1824, courtesy archive.org

John (George) Jansen de Ratalie, one of the Walloon emigrants of 1623, who first settled at Fort Orange (Albany), and in 1G26 removed to Amsterdam, on Manhattan Inland. On the lGth of June, 1637, Bapalie purchased from its native proprietors a piece of land called ” Hennegackonk,” lying on Long Island “in the bend of Mareckkawieck,” now better known as Wallabout Bay. This purchase, comprising about three hundred and thirty-five acres, now occupied in part by the grounds of the United States Marine Hospital, and by that portion of the city between Nostrand and Grand Avenues — although it may have been, and probably was, more or less improved as a farm by Bapalie — was not occupied by him as a residence until about 1654. 3 By that time, the gradual influx of other settlers, many of whom were Walloons, had gained for the neighborhood the appellation of the “Waal-Bogt,” or “the bay of the foreigners.”

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Mayor Bloomberg starting things off, describing the project and it’s significance to the crowd of dignitaries and veterans. He seemed to be in a particularly jocular mood.

from wikipedia

Michael Rubens Bloomberg (born February 14, 1942) is an American business magnate, politician, and philanthropist. Since 2002, he has been the Mayor of New York City and, with a net worth of $19.5 billion in 2011, he is also the 12th-richest person in the United States. He is the founder and eighty-eight percent owner of Bloomberg L.P., a financial news and information services media company.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Apparently, the Navy Yard is an object of some attention for City Hall and hizzoner described the various political twists and financial turns over the last decade which culminated at this ceremony.

from nyc.gov

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation President Andrew Kimball cut the ribbon today on BLDG 92, a $25 million exhibition and visitors center that documents the historic significance of the 300-acre Brooklyn Navy Yard, and announced new hiring commitments from Navy Yard tenants. Over the coming year, tenants including Steiner Studios, Shiel Medical Laboratories, B&H Photo, Duggal Visual Solutions, Cumberland Packing, Ares Printing and Mercedes Distribution have agreed to work with the Navy Yard’s expanded employment program – to be housed in BLDG 92 – to place over 300 local residents in new jobs. To date, more than 1,000 local residents have been placed in jobs over the past 10 years. The new program will make a special effort to place veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan in the new jobs.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

A surprisingly large audience was present, including representatives of the various trade unions which worked on the project.

from wikipedia

A trade union (British English) or labor union (American English) is an organization of workers that have banded together to achieve common goals such as better working conditions. The trade union, through its leadership, bargains with the employer on behalf of union members (rank and file members) and negotiates labour contracts (collective bargaining) with employers. This may include the negotiation of wages, work rules, complaint procedures, rules governing hiring, firing and promotion of workers, benefits, workplace safety and policies. The agreements negotiated by the union leaders are binding on the rank and file members and the employer and in some cases on other non-member workers.

Originating in Europe, trade unions became popular in many countries during the Industrial Revolution, when the lack of skill necessary to perform most jobs shifted employment bargaining power almost completely to the employers’ side, causing many workers to be mistreated and underpaid. Trade union organizations may be composed of individual workers, professionals, past workers, or the unemployed. The most common, but by no means only, purpose of these organizations is “maintaining or improving the conditions of their employment”.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez spoke next, as the Brooklyn Navy Yard is contained within her district. I had an opportunity to chat briefly with her afterwards, but we talked mainly about Newtown Creek.

from wikipedia

Nydia Margarita Velázquez (born March 28, 1953) is the U.S. Representative for New York’s 12th congressional district, serving since 1993. She is a member of the Democratic Party. The district includes residential areas of three boroughs (Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan). She is the first Puerto Rican woman to be elected to Congress, and the chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus until January 3, 2011.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Speaker Quinn spoke next, and described the managers of the project with great admiration.

also from nyc.gov

“The Navy Yard is a testament to New York City’s resilience and creativity,” said NYC Council Speaker Quinn. “Through thoughtful redevelopment efforts, what was once a thriving shipbuilding facility is now a model urban industrial park that houses some of the City’s most cutting edge companies. We are proud at the Council to have partnered with the Administration, State, Borough President Markowitz, and the Brooklyn Navy Yard to make BLDG 92 a reality and are thrilled to see that it will help connect local residents to more than 300 new jobs.”

- photo by Mitch Waxman

This fellow was a State Senator, I believe, named Daniel Squadron.

from wikipedia

Daniel Squadron is the state senator for the 25th district of the New York State Senate. He is a Democrat. The 25th Senate District covers lower Manhattan and an area of Brooklyn down the East River from part of Greenpoint to Carroll Gardens, and eastward to part of Downtown Brooklyn.

Before his election to the state senate, Squadron attended the Fieldston School in Riverdale, New York. He later served as a top aide to U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer, and helped to write Schumer’s book “Positively American: Winning Back the Middle-Class Majority One Family at a Time”. He ran in the Democratic primary against 30 year incumbent Martin Connor on September 9, 2008, defeating Connor with approximately 54% of the vote.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Next up was Deputy Mayor Bob Steel.

from nyc.gov

Robert K. Steel is Deputy Mayor for Economic Development. He is responsible for the Bloomberg Administration’s five-borough economic development strategy and job-creation efforts, as well as its efforts to expand job training, strengthen small business assistance, promote new industries, diversify the economy, and achieve the goals of the New Housing Marketplace Plan, which is designed to build or preserve enough affordable housing for 500,000 New Yorkers by 2014. He spearheads the Administration’s major redevelopment projects, including those in Lower Manhattan, Flushing, Hunters Point South, Coney Island, Stapleton, the South Bronx, and Hudson Yards. Deputy Mayor Steel oversees such agencies as the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, Department of City Planning, Department of Small Business Services, NYC Economic Development Corporation and NYC & Company, and he serves as Chair of Brooklyn Bridge Park board.

Prior to his 2010 appointment as Deputy Mayor, Steel was the President and CEO of Wachovia. From 2006 to 2008, Steel was the Under Secretary for Domestic Finance at the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Prior to entering government service, Steel spent nearly 30 years at Goldman Sachs, ultimately rising to become co-head of the U.S. Equities Division and Vice Chairman of the firm. He is a graduate of Duke University and the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, and has distinguished himself as Chairman of Duke’s Board of Trustees, Chairman of the Aspen Institute’s Board of Trustees, Senior Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, a member of the FDIC Advisory Committee on Economic Inclusion, Chairman of The After-School Corporation, and Co-Founder of SeaChange Capital Partners, an organization dedicated to helping nonprofits grow.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Several military veterans were in attendance, as mentioned, these fellows had served on the USS Missouri which was launched from the Navy Yard during the second World War.

from wikipedia

USS Missouri (BB-63) (“Mighty Mo” or “Big Mo”) is a United States Navy Iowa-class battleship, and was the fourth ship of the U.S. Navy to be named in honor of the U.S. state of Missouri. Missouri was the last battleship built by the United States, and was the site of the surrender of the Empire of Japan which ended World War II.

Missouri was ordered in 1940 and commissioned in June 1944. In the Pacific Theater of World War II she fought in the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa and shelled the Japanese home islands, and she fought in the Korean War from 1950 to 1953. She was decommissioned in 1955 into the United States Navy reserve fleets (the “Mothball Fleet”), but reactivated and modernized in 1984 as part of the 600-ship Navy plan, and provided fire support during Operation Desert Storm in January/February 1991.

Missouri received a total of 11 battle stars for service in World War II, Korea, and the Persian Gulf, and was finally decommissioned on 31 March 1992, but remained on the Naval Vessel Register until her name was struck in January 1995. In 1998, she was donated to the USS Missouri Memorial Association and became a museum ship at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Another veteran was sitting on the dais, who was interviewed in a documentary on the project which accompanied and was distributed with the press kit.

from bldg92.org

Be among the first to walk through the gates of the Brooklyn Navy Yard when BLDG 92 opens to the public on 11/11/11. We will offer free tours, family fun and prizes to celebrate our grand opening.

Free shuttle service for opening weekend: From 12-6PM, the blue Brooklyn Navy Yard shuttle bus will make continuous loops between BLDG 92 and downtown Brooklyn (intersection: Jay Street and Willoughby Street) easily accessible from the Jay St/Metrotech station (A,C,F,N,R) and a quick walk from Borough Hall Stations (2,3,4,5)

Fri, Sat, Sun 12-6

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Along with the color guard, there was a military band present.

from wikipedia

The U.S. Navy School of Music was founded at the Washington Navy Yard by order of the Chief of the Bureau of Navigation on 26 June 1935. The school was originally run by the U.S. Navy Band, with members of the Navy Band teaching classes and private lessons in addition to their regular performance duties with the band. After the commencement of World War II, these duties were deemed too onerous for the Navy Band personnel and the school was separated from the band and relocated to the Anacostia Naval Receiving Station in Washington, D.C. on 24 April 1942.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

I was particularly taken with the Sousaphone player for some reason.

from wikipedia

The sousaphone is a valved brass instrument with the same tube length and musical range as other tubas. The sousaphone’s shape is such that the bell is above the tubist’s head and projecting forward. The valves are situated directly in front of the musician slightly above the waist and most of the weight rests on one shoulder. The bell is normally detachable from the instrument body to facilitate transportation and storage. Excepting the instrument’s general shape and appearance, the sousaphone is technically very similar to a standard (upright) tuba.

For simplicity and durability, modern sousaphones almost definitively use three non-compensating piston valves in their construction, in direct contrast to their concert counterparts’ large variation in number, type, and orientation. It has been incorrectly noted that the tuba is a conical brass instrument and the sousaphone is a cylindrical brass instrument; actually both instruments are semi-conical—no valved brass instrument can be entirely conical, since the middle section with the valves must be cylindrical. While the degree of conicity of the bore does affect the timbre of the instrument much as in a cornet and trumpet, or a euphonium and a trombone, the bore profile of a sousaphone and most tubas is similar.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Within the structure, this is that 22,000 pound anchor that you’ve heard mentioned in other reports.

from wikipedia

The words ὀδὁντες and dentes (both meaning “teeth”) are frequently used to denote anchors in Greek and Latin poems. The invention of the teeth is ascribed by Pliny to the Tuscans; but Pausanias gives the credit to Midas, king of Phrygia. Originally there was only one fluke or tooth, whence anchors were called ἑτερόστομοι; but a second was added, according to Pliny, by Eupalamus, or, according to Strabo, by Anacharsis, the Scythian philosopher. The anchors with two teeth were called ἀμϕἱβολοι or ἀμϕἱστομοι, and from ancient monuments appear to have resembled generally those used in modern days except that the stock is absent from them all. Every ship had several anchors; the largest, corresponding to our sheet anchor, was used only in extreme danger, and was hence peculiarly termed ἱερά or sacra, whence the proverb sacram anchram solvere, as flying to the last refuge.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The museum offered few vantage points of the actual working Navy Yard, this was one of them.

from nydailynews.com

“This will be a way for the public for the first time since 1801 to penetrate our walls and learn about our history and what we’re doing now,” said Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corp. president Andrew Kimball. “We’ve worked really hard to break down that separation with the community.”

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