The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for June 2012

Project Firebox 47

leave a comment »

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Found on Jackson Avenue in hoary Long Island City, this guardian of the realm is desirous of emotional acceptance, as evinced by the sticker adjoining casual passerby to “love me” adorning its paramount. Possessed of the “ice cream cone” crown which is missing from many of its later cousins, this lonely Firebox has likely seen hard duty over the decades, sitting across the street from a lumber yard and the titanic rail yards which distinguish western Queens. Soldier on, lonely firebox, and know that you are indeed loved by a grateful citizenry.

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 30, 2012 at 12:15 am

frightful parts

leave a comment »

- photo by Mitch Waxman

In ancient Greenpoint, down on Manhattan Avenue, a scrap metal processing yard has opened.

This is a somewhat puzzling development, as the modern streets around these parts host a large number of residential buildings- both old and new- and the locale is clearly trending toward the residential rather than industrial in the future. Regardless, this business brings badly needed jobs to recession plagued Brooklyn, and all I can say to these new stakeholders along the water is this- “Welcome to Newtown Creek”.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The good news is that this particular metals business- which is TnT Scrap Metal, by the way- is using barges in the pursuit of their trade.

A single barge carries the equivalent load of better than 150 trucks, and one of the tried and true complaints offered incessantly at this – your Newtown Pentacle- is how few of the businesses based along the Newtown Creek utilize their bulkheads. The metals trade, at least the big players like SimsMetal, utilize maritime methodologies routinely.

This Newtown Creek of ours was once one of the finest industrial waterways on earth, and could be again someday.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Once upon a time, the sight of a barge tied up here would have been nothing special. The Newtown Creek Towing Company was nearby, as was the New York State Barge canal. The enormous brick structure framing the shot above, known to modernity as the Greenpoint Manufacturing and Design Center (GMDC) was once home of the Chelsea Fiber Mill, an 1868 era factory building which was employed in the manufacture of maritime textiles and rope.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The Manhattan Avenue Street end, where once the Vernon Avenue Bridge connected the Brooklyn municipality of Greenpoint to Long Island City’s Hunters Point, is a park and sports a kayak launch. It’s actually a pretty popular place for the locals- for dog walking, coffee drinking… and god help us all… people actually fish and crab here as well.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

TNT is making an effort at being a good neighbor, and has recently announced a contest for local artists to compete for a monetary prize and the chance to paint a mural on their largish metal gates on Manhattan Avenue. When word of this reached me a few weeks back, and TNT’s “rfp” crossed my desk, the first person I thought of to disseminate the news to the arts community of Greenpoint was none other than Ms. Heather over at newyorkshitty.com.

Ever gracious and instinctually curatorial, she ran the news in this post- where you can get all the details on the competition.

____________________________________________________________________________

Click for details on Mitch Waxman’s
Upcoming walking and boat tours of Newtown Creek, and Staten Island’s Kill Van Kull

June 30th, 2012- Working Harbor Committee Kill Van Kull walk

for June 30th tickets, click here for the Working Harbor Committee ticketing page

July 8th, 2012- Atlas Obscura Walking Tour- The Insalubrious Valley

for July 8th tickets, click here for the Atlas Obscura ticketing page

July 22nd, 2012- Working Harbor Committee Newtown Creek Boat Tour

unvocal waves

leave a comment »

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Recent business carried me into Manhattan, to a meeting where the alcohol flowed freely and afterwards your humble narrator found himself more than a little tipsy. In prior times of plenty, a taxi might have been hired to carry my besotted husk back to Astoria, but as dire financial circumstances demand- it would be the subway that would ferry me home.

The assignation that night was right in the middle of rich people country, Lexington Avenue in the high 30’s, so the drinks were far better than the usual swill I quaff.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Making my way through Times Square, by this point more than just a little tipsy and edging on drunk, the notion of attempting a few night shots entered my fevered mind. As mentioned in several prior posts, this is something “I’m working on”. A difficult endeavor under normal circumstance, low light photography is especially interesting after several cocktails have been imbibed over a short interval.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Luckily, I’ve never felt inhibited taking “street shots” of strangers, and have often been chided for walking right up to people and just starting to click away. Of course, embarrassment ruled over me the next morning, as I found a series of cliche “Times Square Street Photography” shots had been captured in my stupor.

Back to the sobering realities of the Newtown Creek for me.

____________________________________________________________________________

Click for details on Mitch Waxman’s
Upcoming walking and boat tours of Newtown Creek, and Staten Island’s Kill Van Kull

June 30th, 2012- Working Harbor Committee Kill Van Kull walk

for June 30th tickets, click here for the Working Harbor Committee ticketing page

July 8th, 2012- Atlas Obscura Walking Tour- The Insalubrious Valley

for July 8th tickets, click here for the Atlas Obscura ticketing page

July 22nd, 2012- Working Harbor Committee Newtown Creek Boat Tour

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 28, 2012 at 12:15 am

vain presence

with 10 comments

- photo by Mitch Waxman

One feels as if enough attention hasn’t been paid to Queens of late, and special efforts to program my walks have been accordingly undertaken. Ambitions and obligations have drawn me, more often than not, to Brooklyn in the last few months and it seems as if I spend my days walking back and forth to the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge more than anywhere else.

I haven’t been east of Forest Hills so far this year, nor south of Ridgewood- for instance.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Special attentions must, as always, be paid to the area around Court Square, Queens Plaza, and Hunters Point- all of which are undergoing thunderous transformations and metamorphoses. Blink just once, it seems, and an entire neighborhood might be transformed into something new and unrecognizably shiny. That thing which cannot possibly exist in the cupola of the Sapphire Megalith doesn’t ever blink, as its singular eye is lidless and likely triple lobed, but it isn’t talking.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Unadulterated and unbound, Western Queens never fails to disappoint the itinerant photographer plying its lanes. Rhapsodic, the lessons and parables freely observable and extant both inform and instruct. It is said, by physics scholars and quantum mechanists, that reality is altered merely by the act of observation itself.

A humble narrator, therefore, hopes to profoundly alter reality in the coming weeks.

____________________________________________________________________________

Click for details on Mitch Waxman’s
Upcoming walking and boat tours of Newtown Creek, and Staten Island’s Kill Van Kull

June 30th, 2012- Working Harbor Committee Kill Van Kull walk

for June 30th tickets, click here for the Working Harbor Committee ticketing page

July 8th, 2012- Atlas Obscura Walking Tour- The Insalubrious Valley

for July 8th tickets, click here for the Atlas Obscura ticketing page

July 22nd, 2012- Working Harbor Committee Newtown Creek Boat Tour

dizzying fear

with 3 comments

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Just a short one today.

Several of the neighbors here in Astoria, all of whom were born and raised on the southern end of the European subcontinent, have purchased models and iterations of these so called “Smart Cars”. A lot of good natured ribbing is offered by area wags and devotees of the SUV class of motor vehicles to the owners of these tiny cars, over beers or around the BBQ, focusing in on the diminutive size of the vehicle and what it says about the owner’s various physical attributes or virility. The laughing stops, however, when the Smart Car guy manages to find street parking in quick order, and the mockers are stuck driving around for the better part of an hour looking for an appropriate spot which would be large enough for an elephant to enjoy.

Who’s laughing now?

____________________________________________________________________________

Click for details on Mitch Waxman’s
Upcoming walking and boat tours of Newtown Creek, and Staten Island’s Kill Van Kull

June 30th, 2012- Working Harbor Committee Kill Van Kull walk

for June 30th tickets, click here for the Working Harbor Committee ticketing page

July 8th, 2012- Atlas Obscura Walking Tour- The Insalubrious Valley

for July 8th tickets, click here for the Atlas Obscura ticketing page

July 22nd, 2012- Working Harbor Committee Newtown Creek Boat Tour

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 26, 2012 at 12:15 am

profound discouragement

with one comment

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Odd things occur during the night, here in the rolling hills of Astoria.

Just last week, a thief arrived in the small hours of the night and stole two cement planters from in front of the building where Newtown Pentacle HQ is located. The planters were simple things, but quite heavy, and had stood outside the entry way to this building for decades (as I have been told by my neighbors). A stocky man and powerfully built, as revealed by security camera footage, pulled his car up to the curb and purloined the items in under a minute.

His manner was strange, displaying a jerky style of locomotion and there was something just “not right” about his appearance.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Later in the week, a series of loud “pops” echoed through the night.

Fireworks were thought the culprit, detonations of which are a fairly common occurrence in the neighborhood, but area wags were set to wonder- and more than wonder- when a small army of Fire Department Personnel arrived in duty uniform and deployed in large numbers across several blocks. High above, helicopters circled, and the FDNY employees were observed operating a series of metering instruments.

Suddenly, they all returned to their units and left.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The Police too have been busy in the area of late, and several nocturnal arrests of unlikely seeming suspects have also aroused rumormongering and gossip amongst the gentry.

More than once have I noticed the local constabulary collecting stricken or unconscious men off the street. These have not been the “usual suspects” either- the familiar cast of local inebriates or opiate devotees who provide regular annoyance and predictable chaos. Many of these men seem to be foreign born, display a low and common character, are oddly tattooed, and universally bear either craniofacial injuries or deformities. Often they are screaming something in an unintelligible and unfamiliar language, which Croat, Egyptian, and Greek alike refer to as some sort of gibberish.

Something odd seems to be going on, here amongst the concrete devastations of Western Queens…

____________________________________________________________________________

Click for details on Mitch Waxman’s
Upcoming walking and boat tours of Newtown Creek, and Staten Island’s Kill Van Kull

June 30th, 2012- Working Harbor Committee Kill Van Kull walk

for June 30th tickets, click here for the Working Harbor Committee ticketing page

July 8th, 2012- Atlas Obscura Walking Tour- The Insalubrious Valley

for July 8th tickets, click here for the Atlas Obscura ticketing page

July 22nd, 2012- Working Harbor Committee Newtown Creek Boat Tour

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 25, 2012 at 1:39 am

roving commission

with 2 comments

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Lo, sigh heavily and behold- for once again it is Maritime Sunday at this, your Newtown Pentacle. This week, we’re focusing in on the DonJon Marine’s Sarah Anne moving (presumably) from Newtown Creek to the Port of Newark with a load of scrap metals. This is an oft repeated journey for the Tugs of New York Harbor, and offers quite an occupation.

from donjon.com

Since its incorporation in 1966, Donjon Marine has established and continues to seek long-term client relationships in a world where limited business resources demand a constant balancing of expenditures. Beginning with its foundation in the New York area as a pioneer in marine salvage services, Donjon has grown to become a leader in both conventional and environmental dredging. Its areas of expertise also include recycling, land and marine demolition, pollution control and remediation, heavy lift transport, marine transportation and landfill remediation/site management.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The metals trade often comes up in these postings, partially due to my proximity to its center at Newtown Creek, and partially due to the wonder of it all. The claims which are made by those versed in macroeconomic and engineering circles is that the recycling process saves a lot of energy (and atmospheric emissions of concurrent gaseous pollution) from being used in the pursuit of new materials obtained via traditional mining and refining processes.

Click here for the Sarah Ann page at donjon.com, and get all her vital statistics

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Personal observation of the metal recycling process has shown, instead, the heaviest of machinery being operated at full throttle and spewing exhaust into the open air. The whole process is fed by trucks, barges, and vast ocean going ships whose journeys span continents.

Tremendous amounts of fuel, industrial machinery, and human labor are required.

from sname.marinelink.com

Donjon Marine, Co., Inc., a global marine services provider based in N.J., announced that Donjon has added the 2,700 hp twin screw tug Sarah Ann (ex-June K) to its expanding tug fleet. The 78 by 26 by 10.5-ft tug, with twin CAT 3512B diesels and a nine-ft draft, was built in 2003 by A&B Shipyard, Amelia, La. Designed principally for ship handling and assist work, barge towing and dredge assist, the tug’s draft is shallow enough to navigate the many creeks and estuaries throughout the Port of New York region.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Often have I wondered how much is actually saved, environmentally, by the process. This is, of course, heresy to the environmental crowd. Any intellectual deviation from a political normative- such as “recycling is incontrovertibly good and has no cost”- even the act of questioning such logic, is met with disbelief and scorn.

Hey, I’m just asking.

Doesn’t sound good at cocktail parties in Manhattan, I guess.

from wikipedia

The scrap industry contributed $65 billion in 2006 and is one of the few contributing positively to the U.S. balance of trade, exporting $15.7 billion in scrap commodities in 2006. This imbalance of trade has resulted in rising scrap prices during 2007 and 2008 within the United States. Scrap recycling also helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions and conserves energy and natural resources. For example, scrap recycling diverts 145,000,000 short tons (129,464,286 long tons; 131,541,787 t) of materials away from landfills. Recycled scrap is a raw material feedstock for 2 out of 3 pounds of steel made in the U.S., for 60% of the metals and alloys produced in the U.S., for more than 50% of the U.S. paper industry’s needs, and for 33% of U.S. aluminum. Recycled scrap helps keep air and water cleaner by removing potentially hazardous materials and keeping them out of landfills.

June 30th, 2012- Working Harbor Committee Kill Van Kull walk

- photo by Mitch Waxman

My various interests out on the sixth borough, NY Harbor, have brought me into association with the Working Harbor Committee. A member of the group’s Steering Committee- I also serve as the “official” group photographer, am chairman and principal narrator of their annual Newtown Creek Boat Tour, and occasionally speak on the microphone during other tours (mainly the Brooklyn one). This year, the group has branched out into terrestrial explorations to compliment the intense and extant schedule of boat tours, and I’m going to be leading a Kill Van Kull walking tour that should be a lot of fun.

The Kill Van Kull, or tugboat alley as its known to we harbor rats, is a tidal strait that defines the border of Staten Island and New Jersey. A busy and highly industrialized waterfront, Working Harbor’s popular “Hidden Harbor – Newark Bay” boat tours provide water access to the Kill, but what is it like on the landward side?

Starting at the St. George Staten Island Ferry terminal, join WHC Steering Committee member Mitch Waxman for a walk up the Kill Van Kull via Staten Islands Richmond Terrace. You’ll encounter unrivaled views of the maritime traffic on the Kill itself, as well as the hidden past of the maritime communities which line it’s shores. Surprising and historic neighborhoods, an abandoned railway, and tales of prohibition era bootleggers await.

The tour will start at 11, sharp, and you must be on (at least) the 10:30 AM Staten Island Ferry to meet the group at St. George. Again, plan for transportation changes and unexpected weirdness to be revealed to you at MTA.info.

for June 30th tickets, click here for the Working Harbor Committee ticketing page

July 8th, 2012- Atlas Obscura Walking Tour- The Insalubrious Valley

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Newtown Creek Alliance historian Mitch Waxman will be leading a walk through the industrial heartlands of New York City, exploring the insalubrious valley of the Newtown Creek.

The currently undefended border of Brooklyn and Queens, and the place where the Industrial Revolution actually happened, provides a dramatic and picturesque setting for this exploration. We’ll be visiting two movable bridges, the still standing remains of an early 19th century highway, and a forgotten tributary of the larger waterway. As we walk along the Newtown Creek and explore the “wrong side of the tracks” – you’ll hear tales of the early chemical industry, “Dead Animal and Night Soil Wharfs”, colonial era heretics and witches and the coming of the railroad. The tour concludes at the famed Clinton Diner in Maspeth- where scenes from the Martin Scorcese movie “Goodfellas” were shot. Lunch at Clinton Diner is included with the ticket.

Details/special instructions.

Meetup at the corner of Grand Street and Morgan Avenue in Brooklyn at 11 a.m. on July 8, 2012. The L train serves a station at Bushwick Avenue and Grand Street, and the Q54 and Q59 bus lines stop nearby as well. Check MTA.info as ongoing weekend construction often causes delays and interruptions. Drivers, it would be wise to leave your vehicle in the vicinity of the Clinton Diner in Maspeth, Queens or near the start of the walk at Grand St. and Morgan Avenue (you can pick up the bus to Brooklyn nearby the Clinton Diner).

Be prepared: We’ll be encountering broken pavement, sometimes heavy truck traffic as we move through a virtual urban desert. Dress and pack appropriately for hiking, closed-toe shoes are highly recommended.

Clinton Diner Menu:

  • Cheese burger deluxe
  • Grilled chicken over garden salad
  • Turkey BLT triple decker sandwich with fries
  • Spaghetti with tomato sauce or butter
  • Greek salad medium
  • Greek Salad wrap with French fries
  • Can of soda or 16oz bottle of Poland Spring

for July 8th tickets, click here for the Atlas Obscura ticketing page

July 22nd, 2012- Working Harbor Committee Newtown Creek Boat Tour

Many people know about the environmental issues facing Newtown Creek, but did you know that the Creek was once the busiest waterway in North America, carrying more industrial tonnage than the entire Mississippi River?

You’ll learn much more when Working Harbor Committee’s maritime historians and harbor experts
put it all in context during a Hidden Harbor Tours: Newtown Creek Exploration.

The heart of industrial New York, Newtown Creek was home port to hundreds of tugboats (one of which is the historic WO Decker). It was also an international destination for oceangoing ships and a vast intermodal shipping and manufacturing hub that employed hundreds of thousands of people. Forming the border of Brooklyn and Queens for nearly three miles, five great cities grew rich along the Newtown Creek’s bulkheads — Greenpoint, Willamsburg, Bushwick, Long Island City and Manhattan itself. The waterway is still a vital part of the harbor and the Working Harbor Committee (WHC) is proud to present this tour as part of the celebration of their tenth anniversary year.

Mitch Waxman, a member of WHC’s steering committee and the group’s official photographer, also serves with the Newtown Creek Alliance as its group Historian. In addition to working on WHC’s boat tours of the Creek, Mitch offers a regular lineup of popular walking tours, and presents a series of well-attended slideshows for political, governmental, antiquarian, historical and school groups. His website — newtownpentacle.com — chronicles his adventures along the Newtown Creek and in the greater Working Harbor.

He was recently profiled in the NY Times Metro section, check out the article here.

Upcoming tour: Hidden Harbor Tours: Newtown Creek Exploration.

On July 22nd, Mitch shares his unique point of view and deep understanding of the past, present and future conditions of the Newtown Creek as the narrator and expedition leader for this years Hidden Harbor Tours: Newtown Creek exploration.

Our NY Water Taxi leaves from South Street Seaport at 11 a.m. (sharp) on a three hour tour of the Newtown Creek. From the East River we’ll move into the Newtown Creek where we’ll explore explore vast amounts of maritime infrastructure, see many movable bridges and discover the very heart of the Hidden Harbor.

Limited seating available, get your tickets today.

Tickets $50, trip leaves Pier 17 at
South Street Seaport at 11a.m. sharp.

We will be traveling in a comfortable NY Water Taxi vessel with indoor and outdoor seating. There will be refreshments and snacks available for purchase at the bar.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 879 other followers

%d bloggers like this: