The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘East River’ Category

victoriously swept

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If the bridge wasn’t there, it would be impossible to recognize Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Mephitic vapors, the effluent of furnaces and forges, a vague scent of molasses, and the smell of freshly smoked crack cocaine used to be all you needed to recognize where you were when visiting Williamsburg. These days, all you’ve got is the visual cue offered by its eponymous bridge and the vague scent of high end Marijuana.

Occasion found me in the ancient village, and as I was headed for Manhattan to meet up with a boat later in the day, a scuttle across the bridge was called for.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A lot of people think this span is an architectural travesty, but I’ve never thought it was bad enough to to create a Municipal Arts Society over. There are “separate” pedestrian and bicycle paths, which aren’t really segregated from each other in any cohesive manner, but as one such as myself enjoys playing things “by the rules” – I found myself climbing the surprisingly steep ramp leading up from Brooklyn to the bridge itself. At least it provides for some fairly good “cardio.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Back in art school, the conventional wisdom imparted to me by a generation of instructors was that you can’t go wrong when there’s an umbrella in your shot. The reasoning is that the umbrella is an inherently interesting shape, and it breaks up the otherwise pedestrian points of view one normally encounters. It wasn’t raining, of course, and the umbrella was simply there to shield its wielder from the particularly powerful emanations of the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself whose gaze seemed fixed upon the bridge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

All the tourists seem to flock to the Brooklyn Bridge, and its pedestrian path offers one a frustrating and crowded experience. It’s a bit like a lunch line at a buffet, that walk, a slow shuffle while trapped in a queue. Vast preference for the less popular bridges like Queensboro, Williamsburg, and Manhattan is offered by your humble narrator. Crowds suck.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For this walk, I used my “crappy lens” – a 70-300 consumer level zoom. After the great camera disaster of July, wherein both camera body and my “best lens” were destroyed, I’ve been making it a point of mixing things up a bit. Thanks to many of you who donated money for replacement equipment to this blog, and both body and “best lens” have been replaced. Regardless, one tries to keep things fresh and the extra reach which the imperfect but serviceable “long lens” provides for slightly different perspectives and color rendition.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It would be utterly pedantic to go into the technical details on this subject, so suffice to say that each and every lens interprets the light moving through it in different ways. Certain lenses are great for portraits, others for landscapes. Camera settings can also affect color rendition as well – for instance, narrow apertures render the color blue in a certain way due to the clipping of upper and lower limits found in the blue light wave.

As I said, technical and pedantic.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Manhattan side of the Williamsburg Bridge, at Delancey Street, and looking back towards the infinity of Brooklyn.

The Williamsburg Bridge is 7,308 feet long (measuring between the cable anchor terminals) and the deck is some 118 feet wide. The height at the center of the bridge is 135 feet and each tower is 310 feet in height as measured from the East River’s high-water mark. It was originally called East River Bridge #3 when opened in 1903. Its architect was Henry Hornbostel, and the chief engineer who oversaw its construction was Leffert L. Buck.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

September 3rd, 2015
Newtown Creek Boat Tour
with Open House NY, click here for details and tickets.

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 25, 2015 at 11:00 am

evil design

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Getting around town, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator’s antipathy towards entering the rat infested bunkers of sweating concrete that underlie the megalopolis has been fully explored in prior posts at this, your Newtown Pentacle. What are you going to do, though? There’s really only one truly economical way to get around in our city, and the subway is it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

You could drive, I suppose, but one such as myself lives a mere three stops out from the City center, and cannot imagine bearing the costs and pain in the neck that maintaining an automobile would entail. My solution has always been to rent a car when I need one, which is not that often. It’s an expensive caprice, but no where even close to paying annual insurance, gas, and paying for the inevitable parking tickets.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has been making a dedicated effort to use the MTA bus system in the last year, as many of the places which I’m headed for in Queens are not served by the Subway system (or if they are, I have to loop through all of Manhattan to get there from Astoria). For instance, getting to Ridgewood, a distance of less than 6 miles from Astoria, would necessitate a 50 minute ride on the M which would visit most of Manhattan and a significant chunk of North Brooklyn.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Far and away, my favorite form of transit are the ferries, and in particular the giant orange ones. East River Ferry has ironed out a lot of the kinks in their service in the last year, btw, and there’s now a smart phone app which publishes a schedule and anticipated times of arrival at the various landings. You can also purchase tix via the app. The big orange boat is free, incidentally, and is amongst other things – the most popular tourist destination in NYC.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One would enjoy using the rich man’s preferred mode of transit, if only as a diversion, but this mode of transportation is ridiculously expensive – something like $2,000 per hour.

The best way to see NYC is on foot, of course.

This Sunday, I’ll be leading a walking tour of the eastern side of Newtown Creek for Newtown Creek Alliance, btw. Tix are still available, see the links below for more info.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

August 2nd, 2015
The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek – Bushwick & Mapeth Walking Tour
with Newtown Creek Alliance, click here for details and tickets.

August 8th, 2015
13 Steps Around Dutch Kills – LIC Walking Tour
with Atlas Obscura, click here for details and tickets

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 31, 2015 at 12:29 pm

last stages

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The modern day East River in today’s post, which bums me out.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One such as myself once absolutely loved the idea of riding the East River Ferry. As a matter of fact, I seem to enjoy all ferry rides, presuming that the deck is accessible and amenable to photographic pursuits. These days, the actual experience of doing so brings on depressive episodes. One of the problems with the “historian” point of view is that you tend to realize that whatever rises must also fall, and that bills must ultimately be paid. That is why we all toil and labor, to service debts, and the City of New York is currently racking up a hell of a tab.

Recently, the Alice Oldendorf bulk cargo ship was observed at work, making a delivery to a concrete plant at the Brooklyn Navy Yard as I rode the aforementioned ferry.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The ship hosts a series of cranes and conveyors which unload her holds, producing the cyclopean mounds of sand and gravel witnessed above. It’s nice to know that at least some part of ancient Williamsburg still hosts a working waterfront, or at least a working waterfront that is engaged in the production of something other than artisanal pickles.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One cannot help but drop his jaw whenever the former Havemeyer or Domino Sugar plant site comes into view. It is being redeveloped as a residential structure – more luxury condos for the children of the rich to dwell within. The question of what will happen to these structures when NYC slides backwards into an era of degeneracy and decay is one few ask.

Any historian will tell you that it’s a cyclical thing here in the megalopolis, one that flips back and forth on a roughly forty year cycle which can be directly correlated to rates of crime, and that the City’s current upswing began in the late 1990’s – reversing a decline process that started shortly after the Second World War.

Rich people tend to move away from the City center when things get hairy. The rest of us are kind of stuck here.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Williamsburg is officially lost as a point of interest for me. Bland boxes of steel and glass will extend all along the East River soon enough, stretching from the former industrial heartland once called “America’s Workshop” in Long Island City all the way through the Gold Coast of North Brooklyn to the Williamsburg Bridge. Criminals are already beginning to focus their attentions on this area, just as they did in the age of industry. Why? Because predators go where the prey is.

It’s cliché to even comment on it anymore, one realizes.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Scenes long familiar, lost. The wilderness of the oligarchs is upon us, and deep in the woods – wolves howl to celebrate and delight. The nobles will be safe in their keeps, but the peasants – we’re on our own.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

August 2nd, 2015
The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek – Bushwick & Mapeth Walking Tour
with Newtown Creek Alliance, click here for details and tickets.

August 8th, 2015
13 Steps Around Dutch Kills – LIC Walking Tour
with Atlas Obscura, click here for details and tickets.

As detailed in this recent post, my camera was destroyed in an accident.

For those of you who have offered donations to pay for its replacement, the “Donate” button below will take you to paypal. Any contributions to the camera fund will be greatly appreciated, and rewarded when money isn’t quite as tight as it is at the moment.

Donate Button with Credit Cards

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 27, 2015 at 12:43 pm

amidst glare

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A few 4th of July shots, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There are so many balls in the air at the moment, and so many more which one must work into the juggling act… best to focus in on the fireworks from July 4th in today’s post. Distraction abounds.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the 4th itself, a friend with a river view invited Our Lady of the Pentacle and myself to his house. Obligatory for shots of this kind, a tripod came along with me. When the Macy’s show got started, one was ready.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Originally, one planned to be in LIC, the titular focus of the fireworks show… but the security theatrics which NYPD got up to scared me away. I tend to avoid areas in which snipers have been deployed.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My friend’s place is in the crowded and tony section of Williamsburg, and when the show was over – Our Lady and myself managed to fight off a horde of hipsters in pursuance of a taxi to get back to Astoria. When we arrived there, however… in tomorrow’s post, I will describe to you horror incarnate.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

July 12th, 2015
Glittering Realms – Greenpoint, Brooklyn Walking Tour
with Newtown Creek Alliance, click here for details and tickets.

July 26th, 2015
Modern Corridor – LIC, Queens Walking Tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, click here for details and tickets.

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 9, 2015 at 10:33 am

hath looked

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The Tug Sea Lion, at Newtown Creek, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

When one was onboard that Anchor QEA excursion mentioned last week (the post with the shot of those cool storm clouds blowing in), the Sea Lion tug appeared. She was towing an empty garbage barge, and navigating down the East River. Whenever one of these towing vessels nears my vantage in this part of the harbor, even one as loathsome as myself can grow excited.

The backgrounds which they move against are… iconic… to say the least.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Freedom Tower, or One World Trade if you must, has assumed this sort of iconic “gravitas” despite its relatively short period of tenancy in the skyline of the Shining City. Thing is, if you are after instant recognition, nothing beats either the Empire State or Chrysler buildings for saying “New York City.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Sea Lion entered Reach A of the Newtown Creek, heading eastwards. I’ve asked around a bit about the whole “Marion or Reach A,” “Reach B,” thing, btw. My maritime chums, and in this case an actual Ships Captain, have all related that the “reach” thing is how far you can navigate based on a single compass heading.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Sea Lion was witnessed delivering it’s empty barge to SimsMetal, and exchanging the thing for a filled up one. The cargo onboard the barge is full of recyclable materials which the company will process at one of its other facilities.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

July 12th, 2015
Glittering Realms – Greenpoint, Brooklyn Walking Tour
with Newtown Creek Alliance, click here for details and tickets.

July 26th, 2015
Modern Corridor – LIC, Queens Walking Tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, click here for details and tickets.

far within

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A bright, light, sunshiney day, in Today’s Post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recently, the Federal NOAA agency placed a plaque at Bushwick Inlet’s U.S.S. Monitor Museum site, signifying the launch site of the United States’ first ironclad war ship from the spot in Greenpoint. One made it a point to arrive early, there was an event planned which involved dignitaries speaking and children singing, and take a bit of time to get “artsy – fartsy” with the camera and grab some shots.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The one above is a stitched panorama, representing around 200 degrees of view. Just to the right of center are some of the big condo buildings in Williamsburg, and at far right are the tanks of Bayside Fuel.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s Franklin Street on the other side of the fence, btw, behind an overgrown fence line which one didn’t explore except with a zoom lens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There was, indeed, a duck of some kind there.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Rotting timbers found in the littoral zone, which look quite a bit different than the ones you’ll find along my beloved Newtown Creek. These are green and teeming with life, as the East River is actually quite a bit cleaner here than in its northern tributary.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There were lots of rusty bits sticking up out of the ground, but heck – this used to be Continental Iron Works after all.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Continental Iron Works, in addition to building the Monitor, also fabricated the caissons of the Brooklyn Bridge here.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Most of this stuff doesn’t date back to the 1860’s, obviously, there’s a large MTA warehouse and workshop on the landward side and this was the industrial coast of North Brooklyn. Nothing laid fallow here until pretty late in the game – the 1960’s at the very earliest. The experts on this site are George and Janice from the Greenpoint Monitor Museum, who can tell you all about it here.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My interest in Bushwick Inlet is Newtown Creek oriented, of course. The historical definitions of the wetlands surrounding my beloved Creek always mention Bushwick Creek (here) to the south, and Sunswick Creek (Hallets Cove) to the north.

The area between Newtown and Bushwick Creek was called “the Cripplebush,” which is a fun fact.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking past the mouth of Bushwick Inlet, one finds the Freedom Tower, rising from the LeCorbusier inspired NYCHA housing which rings the Shining City.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

June 20th, 2015
Kill Van Kull Walking Tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, click here for details and tickets.

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 18, 2015 at 11:00 am

magnified by

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Scenage from Tower Town, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recently, a humble narrator found himself invited to a party/fundraiser for the Friends of Hunters Point South Park group, and a generalized scuttle was enacted to the East River in LIC’s Hunters Point section. For those of you not in the know, Gantry Plaza State Park (which has been open for several years) is the recreational waterfront amenity found just to the north (ca. Center Blvd. to Anable Basin), and Hunters Point South Park (which includes the so called LIC Landing of the East River Ferry, and which will eventually wrap the ER shoreline all the way to and around the Newtown Creek) is a more recent phenomena.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I hate to admit it, but the whole Tower Town thing seems to be congealing together as intended by the “powers that once were and will be again.” These two parks are VERY well used and the human infestation hereabouts really seem to have taken to them in a big way. Most members of the local infestation with whom one confers attest that they all love living here, with the only two complaints commonly offered by these residents involving transit and a complete lack of any nearby supermarkets.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

City Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer was at the party as well. For some reason, the shot above makes it seem as if he was singing a song to the crowd, but in fact he was merely greeting the assembled group. There were a few other dignitaries about, but this wasn’t a press event or anything, it was an “LIC Henge” party.

On a personal note: Mr. Van Bramer has recently announced that he will be running for reelection, and I for one will whole heartedly cast a ballot for him. One dwells within the political district he oversees and JVB is bloody fantastic. Watch this guy, that’s a future Mayor crooning on the mike in the shot above.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One brought his trusty tripod along, since the scenery to the west is entirely filled by the phosphorescent towers of the Shining City itself. One such as myself finds his eyes drawn to the vast public housing complexes which line the East River in all their Title 1 glory, but manifest hubris naturally pulls my attention.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The famous “Manhattanhenge” wasn’t meant to happen until the following evening, which was a washout anyway due to storms blowing in from the continent found due west of our archipelago, but sunset is always a sure thing when you’re in this spot. It was a fun gathering, and I got to spend some time with a bunch of my Queensicans. If you haven’t been, get on the 7 or East River Ferry and check this space out.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

June 20th, 2015
Kill Van Kull Walking Tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, click here for details and tickets.

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 16, 2015 at 11:00 am

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