The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

sinister swamp

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Notice: the November 9th Magic Lantern Show with Atlas Obscura is cancelled for now. We hope to reschedule for sometime during the winter. Observatory, where the event is scheduled to take place, has been damaged by Hurricane Sandy and flooding. 

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Maspeth Creek overflowed its banks during the surge, and flooded surrounding properties. Luckily, from a humanist point of view, these are industrial sites. Unfortunately, from an economic and environmental point of view, Maspeth Creek is pretty polluted under best case circumstances. All of the businesses nearby had pumps at work and their loading bay doors were wide open, no doubt to aid in drying the places out.

My understanding is that several of these businesses lost entire inventories, and are dealing with untold contaminations of their work place.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The day after the storm, Newtown Creek Alliance distributed video and photos of what was going on here, and it seemed that one of the videos depicted the large CSO (Combined Sewer Outfall) as submerged and emitting raw sewage into the surging water. The material so disgorged must have ended up everywhere. The fellow who was giving me a ride around the watershed, Hank the Elevator Guy, decided to stay in the car for this spot.

A point was made of stamping out my shoes before reentering the vehicle.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

We continued on to our next destination, the Maspeth Plank Road. It was impossible to approach the water, as the always swampy soil was absolutely gelatinous. Unsure as to what might be hidden in the vegetation and not wanting to accidentally pierce my skinvelope via a hidden bit of metal or glass (everything you’re looking at in these posts should be considered highly contaminated), caution was held tightly against the wind and I decided to see what I could see from the pavement.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

What was visible was essentially Brooklyn, where the coastline of the former Furmans Island remained unchanged, except for one thing. There was virtually zero activity, and this stretch of Maspeth Avenue is normally abuzz with trucks and heavy equipment. The sound of pumping was not as evident coming from this direction, best described by Maspeth Avenue’s landward intersection with Vandervoort.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Some water moves between the largish “aggregates” company next door and Newtown Creek, which is the product of its workers complying with dust abatement rules by spraying water on the mounds of soil and stone they process and sell. The ground, however, was highly saturated this day. Normally, this little pathway has a trickle of water flowing through, not the small creek which you see in these shots.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Discretion, valor, and the better part of both demanded that I not try to walk closer to the water. Again, anything you might encounter close to the shore of the Creek after this event is likely coated with filth. Filth, that is, if you’re lucky. All manner of chemicals and fuel products were loosed in the flood waters, and sewer bacteria is merely the tip of the periodic table of possibilities of what you might be exposed to here.

The smell on the air here was not unlike the commercial disinfectant spray sold under the Lysol brand.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Everybody’s friends at Riverkeeper have released a bit of an advisory on what to expect around the waters edge, and how to protect yourself in some way from it. The logic of storm surges and their aftermath demands that a tremendous amount of material will find its way into the water conventionally- down storm drains or washed over the edge- or unconventionally- as submerged fuel and chemical tanks leech their contents into the water.

Be real, real careful when nearby the shoreline, lords and ladies.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

November 4, 2012 at 12:15 am

One Response

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  1. [...] Dutch Kills turning basin in dark moor, Calvary Cemetery in solid stones, The Maspeth Plank Road in sinister swamp, The Grand Street Bridge in shallow mud, English Kills in stranger whence, and Blissville to [...]


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