The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘Borden Avenue Bridge’ Category

imaginative stimuli

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In today’s post- the chiaroscuro of Queens.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Visual splendor makes Queens remarkable, with its open vistas and relicts of vainglory. Whenever the City of New York, since its consolidation, feels itself broken or in need of some experimental improvement- Queens is the place where it has tinkered with rail and expressway, bridge and tunnel, or with municipal zoning and tax abatement schemes. The old girl supports a lot of people these days, and all signs point to the Queens family growing larger.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

There are things which we aren’t talking about in this election cycle, like what happened to the Bowery Bay Sewage Plant during Hurricane Sandy, or the alarming antiquity of the electrical grid. If you spend as much time as I do around Newtown Creek, specifically the Dutch Kills tributary of that infamous ribbon of urban malfeasance and political neglect, the future of Queens is very much reflected in its past.

How long, I wonder, how long before the tinkering begins anew?

- photo by Mitch Waxman

My predictions for the future are dire, as one is pessimistic both by nature and through experience. The growing modern corridors of western Queens will require new power plants and a modernized waste water control system before long which “somebody” will have to pay for. How long before stainless steel digester eggs reminiscent of the type found in Greenpoint tower over Astoria? How long will it be before red and white smokestacks rise over Dutch Kills here in Queens?

When will the tinkering begin?

Things to do!

Working Harbor Committee presents: Great North River Tugboat Races and Competition, September 1st, 2013
9:30-11:30 a.m. at West 42nd Street and the Hudson River. Spectator Boat tickets now on sale.

The 2013 Spring and Summer Tours Schedule

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“follow” me on Twitter at @newtownpentacle

Pana_NCA_CreekEDU_Boat_102311_013359_a

- photo by Mai Armstrong

Want to see something cool?

Odds are that a bunch of the folks who will be reading this might have no idea who Mitch Waxman is, why they should come along with him on a tour of some weird neighborhood in Brooklyn or Queens or Staten Island, nor what a Newtown Creek or Kill Van Kull are- let alone where. Who is this weirdo?

Check out the “bio” page here at Newtown Pentacle, or this profile of me from the NY Times published in 2012. My tours of Newtown Creek have garnered no small amount of interest from the fourth estate- whether it be DNAInfountappedcities.com, Queens Chroniclenewyorkview.net, the 22blog, photobycateblog.com, or Queensnyc, and I’ve turned up in a bunch of media reports, documentaries, and been interviewed for multitudinous reports on the lamentable history of the Newtown Creek.

Most recently, it was National Geographic and Curbed. Attendees on my tours come from a variety of backgrounds- photographers, history and rail buffs, maritime enthusiasts, and there always seems to be an odd and welcome concentration of elected officials and journalists about.

What is with this guy?

I’m the Newtown Creek Alliance Historian, Official Photographer and Steering Committee member of the Working Harbor Committee, a member of the Newtown Creek Monitoring Committee and the Newtown Creek CAG, and am also a member of the Kosciuszko Bridge Stakeholders Advisory Committee. Newtown Pentacle, this blog, has been steadily published since 2009. I live in Astoria, Queens with my wife and our little dog, Zuzu.

In just the last few years, I have exposed thousands of people to the Newtown Creek, and its incredible history. This is where the industrial revolution actually happened, along this 3.8 mile long waterway that defines the border of Brooklyn and Queens.

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- photo by Mai Armstrong

In 2013, continuing relationships with Atlas Obscura, Newtown Creek Alliance, and the Working Harbor Committee (as well as friends like the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance, and others) allow me to offer the following schedule. Live ticketing links will be made available as they come online, and all dates are subject to cancellation or rescheduling due to weather or unforeseen circumstance. There are 6 unique walking tours listed here, and one boat trip in which I will be the principal speaker.

Private tours are possible, schedule permitting, and can be arranged by contacting me here. Last year, for instance, several private University classes engaged me for a day at the Creek, as did a few private groups. As mentioned, contact me and we will figure something out if you’ve got a meetup group, college class, or special request.

Here then, is my official schedule as it stands right now. There will likely be a few additions as time goes on, which I will let you know about as they occur. Best to subscribe to this blog (top right, email subscription)  or “follow” me on Twitter @newtownpentacle for news.

In April, 2013- There will be a brand new tour  of Greenpoint debuted, which I call “Glittering Realms.”

Glittering Realms- Saturday, April 20, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets now on sale.

In May, 2013- We start off with 13 Steps around Dutch Kills, go to the Insalubrious Valley, visit DUKBO, and finish off the month with a Working Harbor boat tour.

13 Steps around Dutch Kills- Saturday, May 4, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets now on sale.

Parks and Petroleum- Sunday, May 12, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Newtown Creek Alliance, tickets on sale soon.

The Insalubrious Valley- Saturday, May 25, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets on sale soon.

Hidden Harbor: Newtown Creek tour with Mitch Waxman - Sunday, May 26,2013
Boat tour presented by the Working Harbor Committee,
Limited seating available, order advance tickets now. Group rates available.

NCA Birdwatch Bus tour- June 24, 2012

- photo by Mai Armstrong

In June, 2013- We visit the Poison Cauldron, return to the Insalubrious Valley, and check out the Kill Van Kull.

The Poison Cauldron- Saturday, June 15, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets on sale soon.

Kill Van Kull- Saturday, June 22, 2013
Staten Island walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Working Harbor Committee, tickets on sale soon.

The Insalubrious Valley- Saturday, June 29, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Newtown Creek Alliance, tickets on sale soon.

In July, 2013- We visit Queens’s Hunters Point with a brand new tour. I might have another offering or two for you, but nothing I can speak about quite yet.

Modern Corridor- Saturday, July 13, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets on sale soon.

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- photo by Mai Armstrong

In August, 2013- We return to the Poison Cauldron, repeat the 13 steps, and the Kill Van Kull walks.

Kill Van Kull- Saturday, August 10, 2013
Staten Island walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Working Harbor Committee, tickets on sale soon.

13 Steps around Dutch Kills- Saturday, August 17, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Newtown Creek Alliance, tickets on sale soon.

The Poison Cauldron- Saturday, August 24, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets on sale soon.

There are a few other dates coming in the fall, and a couple of more summer events which are still being discussed, but I’ll let you know more about them in coming posts.

Also, I will definitely be onboard but not on the microphone during the Working Harbor Committee “Beyond Sandy” Hidden Harbor tours on Tuesday nights, all summer. Hope you can come along.

Click here for more on “Beyond Sandy.”

universal prominence

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

Ribald exuberances and bruising melancholia have marked the passing of the winter months for a pitiful yet humble narrator, but this interval of inactivity is ended at last. Gird yourselves, lords and ladies, for the long threatened 2013 tour schedule is about to pierce its glistening caul and stand naked before you.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

A few final details will delay the announcement of the full schedule until tomorrow, unfortunately, but at this moment I can say that 2013 will include a series of walking tours and a singular boat trip around and upon the Newtown Creek. In addition, there will be a couple of opportunities to return to the Kill Van Kull on… Staten Island…

Additionally, my beloved Working Harbor chums have cooked up a whole new schedule of tours and routes, which I’m not sure I’m allowed to tell you about yet- but they promise to be very cool.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

That Newtown Creek boat trip I mentioned, which will be conducted by the aforementioned Working Harbor Committee, already has a live ticketing page- which is available via the link found below. Group rates, a discount for parties of four or more, can be discussed with the WHC office at the phone number listed on said page.

This will be a three hour tour, and proceed all the way back to Metropolitan Avenue in East Williamsburg onboard a NY Water Taxi. Special emphasis will be paid, and discussion offered, about the maritime significance of the Newtown Creek in this first WHC boat tour of the troubled waterway “Beyond Sandy.”

Hidden Harbor: Newtown Creek tour with Mitch Waxman presented by the Working Harbor Committee, will be depart Pier 17 in Manhattan May 26 at ten a.m.

madness born

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“follow” me on Twitter at @newtownpentacle

- photo by Mitch Waxman

It might be a bit of an oxymoron to say this, but there has been a lot of oil floating in the Dutch Kills tributary of the Newtown Creek since Hurricane Sandy. Realize who this statement is coming from, of course, and the unhealthy familiarity with this waterway which I enjoy. Dutch Kills is one of the forgotten parts of the creek, mainly because it is in Queens.

Mayan Apocalypse Countdown: just 11 days left until the 13th b’ak’tun ends, initiating the Mayan Apocalypse on December 21st. Tick, tock.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

One is often faced with a quandary regarding the Newtown Creek’s northern bank. The Brooklyn, or southern side is well monitored by an army of concerned observers, whereas it often seems that the Queens side only has me. Relying on one such as myself is a terrible idea, given my onerous personality and irksome inability to fulfill even simple responsibilities like doing the laundry.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Photographic records which I have been building for several years of this canal also reveal that the water has never been observed with this particular coloration before, which is obsidian. Something has changed here, possibly of a chemical nature. Perhaps the Bowery Bay sewer plant, whose out falls are found along this stretch, was impacted deeply by the storm? I have no answers to offer.

I guess it doesn’t matter, who cares about Queens anyway?

open place

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned in yesterday’s posting, an effort was made to get out and survey the various parts of the Newtown Creek and her tributaries which are normally focused upon at this, your Newtown Pentacle. Luckily, a friend- Hank the Elevator Guy- offered to drive me around. This simplified my life immensely and allowed me to cover several of the rather further flung sections which one would normally have to walk to.

Pictured above, for instance, are workers pumping out the Queens Midtown Tunnel on the corner of Vernon and Borden.

from jimmyvanbramer.com

Along both Center and Vernon Boulevards I visited businesses that experienced significant flooding damage as a result of Hurricane Sandy. In an effort to help them recover and reopen. I will be delivering FEMA Disaster Assistance forms to businesses. This information will help those affected on their way toward a full recovery.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

This post will concern what was witnessed along Borden Avenue, and subsequent postings for the next few days will highlight other sections of the Newtown Creek. All along Borden, a flurry of activity was underway, and nearly every street level door was opened and featured a flexible pipe carrying water out to the curb. The good news is that Long Island City seems to have rolled up its sleeves and is getting back to work, something which will act as a “force multiplier” for those sections of the City which weren’t so lucky.

from dnainfo.com

A storm surge that flooded “hundreds of properties” with Newtown Creek’s water carries intense economic and environmental repercussions, advocates warned.

“All waterfront properties took water, hundreds of properties,” said the Newtown Creek Alliance’s director Kate Zidar after surveying the scene by the highly polluted creek Tuesday. “The standing water and residue that came from the creek should not be considered clean.”

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The Borden Avenue Bridge, as you’d imagine, survived the hurricane in apparently fine fettle, although the lots surrounding it showed signs of flooding and wash outs. WCBS, today, reported that Newtown Creek breached its bulkheads in LIC flooding the surrounding area- including the Midtown Tunnel.

Based on what I’ve seen and heard here though, the surge was as severe in LIC as it was over in residential Greenpoint over in Brooklyn.

from newtowncreekalliance.org

Sandy Flooding Impacts Waterfront Properties on Newtown Creek

During the peak of the storm, Newtown Creek flooded throughout Zones A, B and C, and some waterfront areas experienced several feet of water. Luckily, waters receded quickly for the most part. Check out our photos from the storm, and our brief recap from Wednesday. If you are looking to volunteer with cleanup, send us an email at info@newtowncreekalliance.org.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Unfortunately there was quite a bit of petroleum in the water, as evinced by not just olfactory evidence, but the presence of a rainbow sheen on the water. Instruction offered by officials of the DEC in the past has opined that the presence of such multicolored refraction indicates a fresh spill of “product”. Quite obviously, however, the sheer number of submerged automobiles and home heating oil tanks in the greater New York area means that there are literally tens of thousands of “non point” sources for such pollution.

from huffingtonpost.com

According to the Office of Response and Restoration at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Coast Guard had requested scientific support from NOAA’s Emergency Response Division for three separate oil spills in Arthur Kill, as well as “reports of several orphan containers, and many potential hazmat targets.”

The so-called “products of concern” include 8,300 barrels — or about 349,000 gallons — of diesel, bio-diesel and slop oil, according to NOAA.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Speaking of the smell, the ineffable odor of raw sewage was omnipresent, also an expected consequence of the disaster. As mentioned in prior postings, your humble narrator has grown quite inured to the smell over the years, and it was pointed out by Hank the Elevator Guy as his eyes began to water. Such inability to perceive environmental factors is known as “adaptation”, which is something I think we are all going to be getting familiar with in the coming months and years.

from petervallone.com

·Tap water is safe to drink.

·Do not use generators or grills indoors. Carbon monoxide poisoning is a serious threat when these devices are used indoors. They should only be used outside and kept away from windows and vents. Everyone should possess and use battery-operated carbon monoxide alarms. Test the batteries if possible.

·If someone experiences sleepiness, dizziness, headaches, confusion, weakness, or if the carbon monoxide alarm sounds, they should immediately seek fresh air and call the poison control center at 212–POISONS (212-764-7667). They can also call 911, since poisoning is life threatening.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The water in Dutch Kills was actually quite active, but it was still fairly windy when these shots were taken. Under normal circumstance, this tributary of Newtown Creek is an unbroken mirror- surreal. There were tons of “floatables” in the water, flotsam and jetsam and wind blown trash and debris. I didn’t witness many birds, other than a seagull (a bird which is not commonly observed at the Creek, they like Astoria Park on Hell Gate, don’t ask me why) which was loudly announcing itself.

The chemistry in the air, which as mentioned was tainted by sewage, smelled not unlike the shop floor of any mid sized automobile mechanic.

from facebook.com/joelentol

SAVE THE DATE! Assemblyman Joe Lentol and District Dog will be partnering for a hurricane relief event on Sunday November 11th to collect goods for Brooklyn residents and animal rescue organizations that have suffered as a result of Hurricane Sandy.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Under emergency conditions such as those which have shattered New York City, unthinkable things are now essential to recovery. Under normal circumstances, visible “product” floating around in any amount- let alone the enormous volume in these shots- would engender an enormous response from environmental watchdogs inside and outside of government.  What you see here is unimportant right now, from a big picture pov.

There are kids out there- in the dark and cold.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Saying that, it will be a long haul to “get back to normal”, or it was so called eleven years ago – the “new normal”. Also, I cannot imagine how tired the same folks who always take it on the chin for the rest of us – cops, firemen, ambulance emt- must be. I’m sure it’s no joke for all the other services, who must have been “on” non stop for the last week with no end in sight.

For the rest of us, NYC will soon be operating under an entirely new rule book.

from greenpointers.com

At this point, there’s not a whole lot that can be done to prevent the Newtown Creek from overflowing.  I was down there at noon today and the bulkhead at GMDC was already under water, and the water was a couple of feet short of overflowing onto Manhattan Ave.  We are expecting a high tide tonight to coincide with the storm surge and that could mean a storm surge of 8-11 feet at Newtown Creek, which would obviously put Manhattan Ave under water.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The Blue Crow’s shack, a homeless shanty which been encamped on the Borden Avenue Bridge for several years that has withstood blizzards and storms, is smashed. I called out to him in English and Spanish, but there was no answer. Hopefully, the fellow found some sort of alternative shelter before the winds took his home.

from observer.com

“As long as you stay indoors, you’re probably safe,” Mayor Bloomberg told the reporters at this evening’s latest press conference. But what about the people for whom it isn’t that simple? The Observer is getting reports that even as Sandy roars our way, some of the city’s most vulnerable–the homeless–are still outside.

As late as this evening, an Observer source found a group of people at Eighth Street and Second Avenue with no plans to leave for a drop-in or emergency center. ”We got shelter right here,” one man told her.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m sort of worried about the situation of the various homeless camps around the Newtown Creek. There are a substantial number of people who exist in the cracks and narrow spaces here, sleeping along fence lines and along industrial sidewalls. One cannot imagine their lives during normal circumstance, let alone Hurricane Sandy.

from housingworks.org

With the mess of Hurricane Sandy in New York City over the last few days, we have been hearing a lot about mandatory evacuations for people in Zone A: areas in Staten Island, lower Manhattan, and eastern Brooklyn (Red Hook and Greenpoint especially). To meet the needs of these Sandy evacuees, Bloomberg opened 65 additional shelters across the five boroughs, stocking these makeshift shelters—high schools, middle schools, etc.—with food, water, blankets, and pet food.

The strongest part of this evacuation plan is that it’s a piece of a larger puzzle, and that these shelters are only a detour until these people can return to their homes. But for the 50,000 people in New York City who are homeless and need shelter every night, they simply are not given the same thought-out consideration or planning, at least not outside of weather emergencies. Certainly, we must commend those who were on the front line of the storm over the last few nights, reaching out to the homeless across New York City and even into New Jersey (well done, Cory Booker) and encouraging them to seek shelter, but where’s the same outreach and energy on an average NYC night? Where is the long-term solution for the population that is the same as Hempstead, NY?

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Having thoroughly documented the area around the Borden Avenue Bridge, Hank the Elevator Guy and I got back in his truck and headed off for points east. More tomorrow at this, your Newtown Pentacle.

from riverkeeper.org

In addition to the extraordinary impacts to our homes and public infrastructure, Superstorm Sandy also had an extraordinary impact to our environment. Riverkeeper has sounded the alarm about widespread pollution in the Hudson River and New York Harbor by a variety of toxic chemicals, including petroleum and fluids from cars and boats; contaminants from flooded subways, roads, parking lots and tunnels; and contaminants washed from shoreline industrial sites, as well as commercial and residential buildings. Our message is being heard, as the press reports on widespread pollution, as well as specific waterways, from the Gowanus Canal to the Rondout Creek.

You can do a service for our water by helping Riverkeeper to document this pollution. Where possible, we will take action with environmental agencies to remedy pollution. In all instances, documenting pollution will help us understand the impacts of this extraordinary storm surge, so we can advocate for actions that will lessen or eliminate impacts from the next storm. When you see something, take photos, and note the location, time and conditions, as well as any other necessary information.

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