The Newtown Pentacle

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Big doings on my beloved Newtown Creek, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Word reached me that a barge had sunk on Newtown Creek last week, at the Allocco Recycling plant in Greenpoint, and despite suffering from a debilitating shoulder injury (Don’t worry, I seem to be on the mend) a humble narrator painfully packed up his kit and headed over to the tripartite intersection of North Henry Street and Kingsland Avenue at Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Allocco Recycling are in the metals and aggregates (or Fill Materials) industries. Metals are the usual thing – copper, aluminum, iron recycling and collection. Aggregates involves the seining and separation of rock, stone, sand, and gravel from construction and excavation materials. Allocco are good guys, in my book, as they ship their processed materials out of Greenpoint using barges rather than trucks. A single barge is the equivalent of 38 heavy trucks.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Allocco has a large property that borders on one of Newtown Creek’s minor tributaries – the so called “Unnamed Canal.” Across the street is the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant’s employee entrance, and down the block is a biofuel company called Metro Fuel. I’m prejudiced towards both entities, it should be pointed out. The DEP lies to me on a regular basis, so I don’t like them. Metro – whom I do like – on the other hand, was founded by my pal Paul Pullo. Paul is a board member of Newtown Creek Alliance whom I work with on a number of the NC committees like NCMC and the Newtown Creek CAG. NCA is also working with Allocco on our Living Dock project which is playing out on Unnamed Canal, as well as the “North Henry Street Project” which will be discussed in some detail at an NCA meeting next week.

All of my conflicts of interest are laid out in the paragraph above, except for one, which I’ll mention later.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Showrunner Mike Allocco, it’s a family owned business after all, told me what happened (and allowed me on the property). It seemed that they were filling a barge with stone on a Friday night and closed shop. The half filled barge was about one third of the way submerged when they returned to work the next morning. His crew did everything they could to hoist and pump out the barge, but it continued to sink and by Saturday afternoon the barge was in the state you see in the shot above.

Allocco then contacted DonJon towing to salvage the thing, and DonJon brought in its heavy equipment. The large maritime crane – which is actually the second largest unit of its type in NY Harbor – is the Chesapeake 1000, and the smaller unit with the crawler crane attached is the Delaware Bay. There were a couple of tugs keeping them in position, but I was unable to identify which boats they were.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The plan, which has already played out and been accomplished, closed Newtown Creek to maritime traffic for an interval. The DonJon crews fed a pair of cables under the sunken barge, lifted it out of the water, pumped out the water, and then moved it into a shallower section of the Allocco bulkhead for repairs. When these shots were gathered, the presumption was that the barge had a damaged hull.

That other conflict of interest mentioned above? As I was shooting these photos, I got a call from a reporter friend who was working for DNAinfo that wanted to buy a shot from me. That shot, and my buddy’s reportage, can be observed in this post at DNAinfo. As the article discusses, the barge had settled down over the Buckeye Pipeline, and luckily for all of us – the fuel delivery infrastructure wasn’t damaged. This was due to the barge settling down onto the so called “Black Mayonnaise” sediments which sit 15-20 thick on Newtown Creek. The quote from DEC’s Randy Austin presented in the DNA piece is ““That’s probably the first time in the history of the Newtown Creek when that sludge bank served as an environmental benefit.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For a maritime industrial geek like your humble narrator, seeing the Chesapeake 1000 was a real treat. DonJon Towing hosts a page listing all of the technical specifications that this 1972 vintage 2,484 Gross Tonnage crane entails. The “1000” part of its name comes from its lifting capacity, but it used to be known as the Sun 800 before DonJon got it. The Sun 800 was damaged in a storm, and during the repair process it was upgraded and outfitted with the 1,000 ton boom it currently sports. The hard hat guys I chatted with on the shoreline at Allocco related the cranes history to me as we watched the operation.

Now, this is where the interesting bit comes in.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It seems that the Sun 800/Chesapeake 1000 was originally built by the Howard Hughes corporation to facilitate the Glomar Explorer project. Glomar Explorer was a giant ship built in the early 70’s which the Hughes people told the world was going to be used for the harvesting of ocean floor minerals and specifically manganese nodules.

That was a cover story, however, for the true mission of the thing, which was to recover a Soviet submarine which had sunk some three miles down on the floor of the Pacific Ocean for the CIA. The project was called “Project Azorian.” The Chesapeake 1000 is officially an artifact of the height of the Cold War, like the Saturn V rocket.

It continually amazes me, the sort of things that Newtown Creek leads to.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The other DonJon rig on the job was Delaware Bay, which is a clam shell dredge vessel. It’s got 1,250 square feet of deck space and was built in 2006. It’s 225 feet long and 54 feet wide, and 1,205 gross tonnage.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The barge itself is unremarkable, other than the fact that it’s submerged. It’s a dry bulk type, and is essentially a giant floating bucket.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned above, the crews from DonJon were executing a plan in which a couple of heavy cables would be run under the sunken barge, at which point the Chesapeake 1000 would lift the thing up and out of the Creek and then pump out the water. To this end, there was a dive team operating.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One cannot imagine the horrors of diving into the turbid waters of Newtown Creek, nor the safety precautions that a professional diver would need to undertake in pursuance of the act. I’ve had the pleasure of chatting with members of this profession who operate in NY Harbor, and they tell me that it’s actually a blind business.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Visibility in the waters of NYC is a couple of feet under best case circumstance, but in the East River and its tributaries, you often can’t see your hand six inches from your face mask. They do a lot of their job by feeling around, and relying on their training.

One fellow kept on bobbing up around the cables which were being fed under the sunken barge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So, that’s the story about the time in February of 2016 that a barge sunk at a recycling company called Allocco in Greenpoint, along the lugubrious Newtown Creek.

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I cannot understand why others do not find these things quite as thrilling as I do.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On one of my constitutionals, a humble narrator found himself at the veritable edge of Queens, heading in a  southerly direction through Blissville on my way to “the Pernt.” Hoary Greenpoint can be accessed from Queens via just a few easily defensible littoral spots, one of them being an eponymous path called “Greenpoint Avenue” and the bridge which is named for it.

It’s a double bascule draw bridge which spans my beloved Newtown Creek, and I refer to the area surrounding it in both Brooklyn and Queens as “DUGABO” which is short for “Down Under the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge Onramp.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Off in the distance to the east, another one of these Thermopylae like passages is visible, the Kosciuszko Bridge.

Should hostilities between Brooklyn and Queens ever break out, it is certain that their respective militaries will make every effort to take and control these passes. Ultimately, you’d want absolute command and control over Pulaski, Kosciuszko, and Greenpoint Avenue Bridges, although sentries and artillery units would no doubt be deployed all along the Newtown Creek to guard against an amphibious invasion. The crumbling bulkheads and industrial fence lines would no doubt make for a daunting landing, and the Queens faction would have a de facto advantage in the conflict due to their ability to deploy artillery on LIRR flatbed cars.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Brooklyn side would be devastated by the first wave of a rail based artillery attack, given the massive presence of oil storage tanks on the southern shoreline. The sewer plant would be an easily targeted site, but vast reserves of Kings County loyalist troops can be found to the South and could easily be brought to the front by the G line. I’m sure there would be a fierce battle in the G tunnel underneath the Vernon/Manhattan avenue area, fought by locally raised units. Lentol’s Leathernecks, and Nolan’s Raiders, would fortify on either side of the tube, with setups reminiscent of WW1 trenches. It wouldn’t be long before both sides resorted to the usage of wonder weapons like poison gas, supplies of which are easily attainable on either side of the fabled Newtown Creek.

Queens would likely attempt the use of the 7 line to ferry in reinforcement troops like Van Bramer’s Sunnyside Battalion and Dromm’s Sikh and Gurkha Jackson Heights Commandos and the terrifying forces of the Meng Men from Flushing and Elmhurst, while Brooklyn would likely use the L line to bring in Reynoso’s Roughnecks, Levin’s Loppers, and Reyna’s Reapers from points east and south. Further to the east – where the borders of Brooklyn and Queens are not aqueous but rather terrestrial in nature – Dilan’s Death Dealers, Liz Crowley’s Maquis Freedmen, and Joe Crowley’s Fenians (backed up on their flank by Grodenchik’s Garroters, Vallone’s Vanquishers, and Katz’s Killers) would all be engaged in a Stalingrad like guerrilla struggle over Maspeth, Ridgewood, and Fresh Pond.

Media attention on the conflict would be of course be focused on LIC and Greenpoint, since you could see that from Manhattan’s east side.

Irregular sappers, freelancers like the Gambinos and Latin Kings, would no doubt be utilized by both sides in this Blood War of the Boroughs.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Whilst musing about the idea of internecine and interborough warfare, I suddenly realized that traffic had stopped flowing on the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge. Worrying that the dark day had arrived at last when the border of Brooklyn and Queens would be marked by fire and death, it suddenly became apparent that the DOT was preparing to open the bridge to allow a maritime transit.

Whooopppeeee!!!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

To all of those stopped in traffic, it must have appeared odd, seeing some despoiled creature In a filthy black raincoat jumping up and down while squealing with joy and waving a camera around.

A minor inconvenience experienced by others is often a moment of joy for me. 

I got busy with the camera, and ran out onto the non movable part of the roadway, which is normally quite a chancey thing to do on the highly travelled span over Newtown Creek, as you’d get squished by a truck.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

God help me, but I just love watching a draw bridge at work. Also, check out those bike lanes. I encouraged a bicyclist to make a try for it, telling him he could easily jump the gap if he got enough headway speed. He ignored me and played with his phone instead.

Some people, I tell you, have no sense of adventure.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The apogee of the bridge roadway’s open posture was attained shortly, and it rose in monolithic fashion. This is likely the position that the Bridge would be fixed into should hostilities between Brooklyn and Queens break out, which is offered as a strategic and or tactical note to the future combatants.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In my incessant research of all things Newtown Creek, an eventuality in which the Creek would have become militarized was actually set down by the War Department of the United States, during the World Wars period of the early 20th century.

Naval Destroyers (sometimes the presence of a battleship is discussed as well) were set to be stationed along the Newtown Creek (as well as the East and Hudson rivers) and its tributaries to defend the Petroleum and Industrial bases along its shorelines from air or naval attack. The anticipated pathway which a German invasion fleet would have followed involved a passage through Jamaica Bay and the Narrows in pursuance of invading Manhattan at the Battery and Brooklyn via Bay Ridge. The naval guns on Newtown Creek would have been trained on the Narrows, shooting artillery in a parabola over all of Brooklyn and bombarding enemy vessels on the waterway. The defensive plan was to create a “death zone” between and supported by Forts Totten (Staten Island) and Hamilton (Bay Ridge). Governors Island was also meant to play a role in the deployment of long range defenses and weaponry.

I know, sounds silly to we children of the atom, but this was an actual military plan. It’s part of the reason why the Kosciuszko and Long Island Expressway over Dutch Kills were built as high as they are, to allow the smoke stacks of ocean going Naval Ships purchase. The East River Bridge heights were also built with the Brooklyn Navy Yard and the presence of Capital Ships in NY Harbor during times of war in mind. It’s one of those “alt history” scenarios which leads to a fascinating thought experiment – a Kriegsmarine and Wehrmacht invasion of New York Harbor (their ACTUAL plans, btw, would have included the setup of a German base of operations at Sandy Hook). Just to reiterate – the Germans were ACTUALLY and ACTIVELY planning for this.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Of course, an invasion of the United States would have been contingent on the Germans not being involved in two major European land conflicts simultaneously, and Germany being at peace with the UK and the Royal Navy. The invasion of NY Harbor would have represented about a third of the German assault, with other units landing at Cape Cod in Massachussets and in Virginia. A simultaneous landing of troops from the Japanese Empire would have occurred in Seattle and in San Diego.

Lost in my alt history thoughts, I suddenly realized that I didn’t know which vessel the bridge had opened for, and a quick dog trot to the fences of the eastern side of the bridge was enacted.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Mary H tug was towing a fuel barge, no doubt headed some three and change miles back from the East River to the Bayside Fuel depot found nearby another one of the flash points in a Borough on Borough war – the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge. Both Grand Street and Metropolitan Avenue Bridges span narrow passes on the Creek, where small arms fire and snipers would be easily able to command and control access between the two warring sides.

What would be the cause of a war between the two boroughs? Good question, lords and ladies.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My bet is that it would be a trade dispute, with Brooklyn enacting a restrictive tariff on all things artisinal and organic.

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Seasons Greetings, indeed.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The first electric Christmas tree lights were displayed back in 1882, by Edward Hibberd Johnson. It just so happened that Johnson was a partner in the Edison Illuminating Company, incidentally. In 1903, commercially available Christmas lights went on the market, and America has been gaga for the decorations ever since. Pictured above is Nassau Avenue in Greenpoint, which like many commercial strips in NYC, has a merchants association that strings lights over the thoroughfare to bring the cheer. Closer to home, the merchants association on Steinway Street here in Astoria, Queens, actually pipes Christmas music onto the commercial strip through speakers. I cannot imagine anything more horrible than living on Steinway Street and having Christmas music playing in a continuous loop outside my window.

Factor in the fact that the vast majority of people who live on Steinway are observationally religious Muslims, and it gets that much more macabre. The neighbors from the Levant seem to tolerate it pretty well, but still…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One such as myself would do away with all of these winter holidays and instead create a custom of serious self reflection and ascetic study. I think Voltaire had it right when he suggested that we should all spend more time pursuing our studies, but to each his own. Giant inflatable puppets it is.

Idiots and demagogues claim that there is a “war on Christmas” underway in our society, which causes me to retort that Christmas is a actually illegal in the nation of Brunei, and that the Sultan who rules that country was a dear and personal friend of Ronald Reagan.

This usually rubs those idiots and demagogues the wrong way, which is my intention.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For myself, when I want to see red and green lights, I head over to the Sunnyside Yards. You don’t have to wait for December, which is a plus.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 21, 2015 at 11:00 am

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Down Under the Kosciuszko Bridges Onramps – DUKBO, part 2 – in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As described in my last post, a visit to the NYS DOT’s Kosciuszko Bridge project site was arranged for members of the “Stakeholders Advisory Group” that is connected to the project. Community members, business owners, representatives of municipal agencies and elected officialdom, the SAG’s job is to bring concerns to the attention of the project managers of the K Bridge project. Anyone interested in finding out more about the project straight from the source, or who feel that they should be involved, can contact the Community Liason’s office.

There’s all sorts of job opportunities available on the project as well, for those of you involved with the trades, but quite obviously that’s not something a humble narrator can help you out with.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the left side of the shot above is the Robert Moses 1939 era “New Meeker Avenue” Bridge, which was rechristened in 1940 as the Kosciuszko Bridge. Its original purpose, as far as Mayor LaGuardia was concerned, was to allow egress for the multitudes of Brooklyn to the 1939 Worlds Fair over in what we refer to as “Flushing Meadow Corona Park.” For Moses, it was the first link in a chain which he originally called the “Brooklyn Queens Connecting Highway” which modernity knows as the Brooklyn Queens Expressway.

Technical note – the Gowanus Expressway actually was the first part of the modern BQE to be built, but my understanding is that Moses didn’t intend for it to be part of the BQE – it was incorporated into the larger expressway when the Verazzano was being built.

That’s my understanding, I might be incorrect, so “grain of salt.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Brooklyn side of the Newtown Creek enjoys a rather shallow firmament, as a craton which underlies this section of western Long Island – essentially an enormous glacial erratic or boulder – is only about sixty to seventy feet below the surface and sits at a fairly oblique angle relative to the land.

The Queens side is basically a giant pile of mud more than a hundred feet deep, and the bedrock craton on the northern or Queens side of the Creek is more difficult to access. The original or 1939 Kosciuszko Bridge piers on the Queens side are essentially founded on concrete blocks floating in this mud. The new bridge will be anchored in the bedrock instead. (This, incidentally, isn’t something I know from the SAG, rather its “history” stuff).

The piles seen above are in various stages of being driven down to the craton – or bedrock.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As we neared the shoreline of Newtown Creek, I mentioned to several people that this was one of the spots which I had never actually set foot upon. There used to be a carting company here which was… let’s just say that they didn’t like people with cameras wandering around, and that the few times which I did approach their fencelines over the years resulted in my being literally threatened by several mustachioed people with a distinctly Italian variant of the North Brooklyn accent. As I often say, I only run when someone or something is chasing me, and after meeting these fellows I was running.

The metallic box pictured above was a pretty cool thing, however.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The new Kosciuszko Bridge is going to be a “cable stay” bridge, the first of its kind in NYC. The device pictured above is what the cables will be running through. The cables will leave their anchorage and climb up and over the towers, feeding down to and supporting the roadway over the water. This is a pretty important bit of kit, obviously, as the BQE carries a couple of hundred thousand vehicles a day over Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking towards West Maspeth’s border with Blissville near Calvary Cemetery, across the lugubrious Newtown Creek. The Queens side of the job is on schedule, but the process isn’t quite as far along on the north shore. You can see the piers which will carry the road, but the towers which will support the cables haven’t been erected yet.

There’s a whole lot of environmental “ugly” in the shot above, the ground to the right is part of the Phelps Dodge State Superfund site. The sediments in this section of the Newtown Creek are rife with organocoppers and all sorts of bad stuff, which is why the water and what lies below is part of the Federal Superfund site, and not too long ago it was determined that the chemical condition of the land at Phelps Dodge was too extreme for it to serve as a parking lot for USPS trucks.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking up the dizzying heights of the two concrete towers of the Brooklyn side, which are still rising. There were gangs of laborers working up there, who are clearly made of sterner stuff than I. I’d need the Fire Department to come rescue me, as paralysis would set in due to the height.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking back towards the south/south west, along the ramps of the Kosciuszko Bridges. You can really see the difference in the two spans’ deck heights in the shot above. The DOT folks tell me that this is to ensure a smoother experience for drivers, as they won’t have to crest quite as high an incline. Additionally, the BQE will no longer compress to three lanes from four and then back to four again on the new bridge. There is also meant to be an entirely dedicated approach to the Long Island Expressway when the job is finished.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Our visit over, the Stakeholders Advisory Group was escorted back to Meeker Avenue, where we turned in our hard hats and other safety gear.

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November 23, 2015 at 11:00 am

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Down Under the Kosciuszko Bridges Onramps – DUKBO – in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The other day, Tuesday the 17th to be exact, one found himself wearing an orange vest and a hard hat with a Skanska logo on it in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

I’m a member of the Stakeholders Advisory Group for the Kosciuszko Bridge project, and we had been invited out by the NYS DOT for an inspection of the massive construction site. These are fairly exclusive shots, incidentally, and this post will be the first of two describing what I saw.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Kosciuszko project involves not just the construction of a new K bridge, and the demolition of the 1939 original, but the rerouting and redesign of the 2.1 miles of approach roads.

These roads include the Brooklyn Queens Expressway and the notoriously problematic cloverleaf exchange the BQE has with the Long Island Expressway. The project is being run by the NYS Department of Transportation, and executed by a partnership between Skanska, AECOM, and Kiewit. Skanska is the managing partner for the two phase project, the first part of which (half the new bridge, roadwork, and demolition of the original) is budgeted at $550 million.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s a massive Union Labor kind of job, and it seemed that every trade organization was present on site. These fellows were iron workers, installing the rebar which would provide structural support for the concrete deck of the BQE. The concrete guys were getting busy about a quarter of a mile back, incidentally, filling in the steel webbing that these guys were building.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another team of laborers were observed lowering structural steel into place on one of the overpasses for the highway. The sections of the new bridge currently under construction are slightly to the east of the current roadway and bridge. When this phase of the project is complete, traffic will be shifted over to it, and the 1939 Kosciuszko and BQE will be demolished.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Once demolition is complete, phase two will see the westerly half of the new Kosciuszko and BQE built. According to the officials from DOT we were with, the project is slightly ahead of schedule and they are confident they’ll meet the 2017 goal date for the opening of the new bridge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The ramp leading to the bridge is nearing Newtown Creek, but isn’t quite there yet. The ramps sit on a series of concrete piers supported by columns which rise hundreds of feet from a section of DUKBO which I’ve often referred to as the “Poison Cauldron.” Down below, there’s a series of realigned local streets which are currently off limits due to the construction.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking back to the south, the construction guys were hard at work. This is a massive undertaking, the sort of thing you don’t see that often in New York City, or at least not since Robert Moses was kicked out of power.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Down on “used to be Cherry Street” we headed north towards Newtown Creek, pausing periodically for the laborers to finish up a task. Above, a crew was moving soil around, and grading the surface.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The ramp for the BQE comes into view as you approach “used to be Anthony Street.” The new bridge will be considerably closer to the ground than the original. The 1939 bridge was built with maritime shipping in mind, and it’s altitude accommodated the height of smoke stacks typical of ocean going military and cargo ships.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Under the ramp, you can see the progress that the triple partnership and DOT have made. The structure on the right is part of the new approaches. The actual new Kosciuszko that over flies the water will be a cable stay bridge, which will make it unique in NYC. The good news, for me at least, is that the westerly section erected in stage 2 will include a pedestrian and bicycle lane that looks west along Newtown Creek towards Manhattan.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Newtown Creek is found just beyond the horizon in the shot above. That’s the old Kosciuszko Bridge on the left, with the new one being built up on the right. Traffic flows overhead, uninterrupted, during all of this activity. Beyond the Creek, it’s West Maspeth and Blissville on the other side, in Queens.

Monday, I’ll show you what we saw down at the waters edge, here in DUKBO – Down under the Kosciuszko Bridges Onramps.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

November 20, 2015 at 1:00 pm

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The whole horde of loathsome sentience came to Greenpoint recently.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One received an email recently, from the “powers that be” in lower Manhattan, which announced the most super duper secret in the whole wide world. The Mayor himself would be coming to Greenpoint, to make a major announcement about a very, very important thing. “Ok”, says a humble narrator. I mean… it’s Newtown Creek he’s coming to… I had to go.

Now, before I continue, allow me to lay down a few ground rules for this post.

a) I’ve never been a sports guy. While the other kids were trading baseball cards, I was collecting politician cards. “I’ll trade you two near mint 1985 Donald Manes’s for that 1993 rookie year Chuck Schumer” – that’s my sort of thing. I know a bunch of the people in these shots from Newtown Creek “stuff” – like Diana Reyna, who is pictured in the shot above. All the politics and policy stuff notwithstanding, there’s a lot of genuinely nice people involved in public life – and Diana Reyna is one of them.

There’s also certain elected officials who can best be described as being a “bag of dicks that talks.”

b) the press conference was announcing a policy intended to protect the M1 and IBZ zones from being overrun by hotels and storage facilities. As policy goes, it doesn’t entirely suck. The idea is that any new hotel or storage facility will now have to approved by some city council led process which hands off even more power to the individual council members, and the speaker, than they already possess. There’s also some “yada yada” about money for training industrial workers of the future – that sort of thing.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

c) I’ve been following the Mayor’s career since shortly after he stopped aiding, abetting, and providing comfort to America’s enemies in Nicuaragua back in the 1980’s. I watched him during his years on the council, noted his turn at public advocate, and thoroughly enjoyed the campaign he ran in 2013 in which 73.15% of the 1,087,710 eligible voters who cast a ballot gave him what he calls his mandate.

d) There are 4.3 million eligible voters in New York City, so remember that the Mayor’s “mandate” represents, in actuality, 73% of roughly 24% of the electorate. Suffice to say, and for those of you who follow my Twitter stream this will not be a surprise, I’m not a fan of this adminstration and I don’t have any Bill de Blasio cards in my collection. He’s kind of the Pete Rose of politics – you can’t deny his record, but…

e) Everything that follows is heavily inflected with sarcasm, written in a mocking tone, and designed to make the Mayor seem churlish, dishonest, and strange. I really don’t like this Mayorality, and the creeping entropy which is nibbling its way back into the very fiber of our municipality which the adminstration coddles. If you want a straight “journalistic” kind of thing on this topic, google it and you’ll find Marcia Kramer from CBS throwing him shade, or any of the other press people’s straight up reportage of what was in the press release that was handed out. I have to say that, because the de Blasio people are notoriously lacking in the sense of humor category, and this post is going all tangential on me as I’m writing it.

f) I’m actually registered as a Democrat, something I felt forced to do as my former status as an “independent” kept me from voting in primaries. If NYC had open primaries, I’d likely be independent again. My politics are odd, can be somewhat severe, and hard to fit into any box manufactured much later than the late 60’s – when I was manufactured, coincidentally. I mention this only so you don’t think this post is some sort of partisan “party thing.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One found it funny, actually, that the spot chosen to make this announcement about saving industrial zones from development and the pressures of the real estate market occurred in North Brooklyn, with Newtown Creek and Tower Town in Long Island City as backdrop. I found it humorous when passing tugs, and locomotives moving along the Queens side, interrupted the Mayor’s speech with industrial noise and distracted him.

Amusing as well, the fact that we were at the Newtown Creek superfund site, which is on the same Federal list that the Mayor fought to keep the Gowanus Canal from being named to several years ago.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One found it bizarre to hear the Mayor decry the power and reach of the Real Estate Industrial Complex, the very “powers that be” whom he has enjoyed a long relationship with that have reduced the amount of market rate housing in Brooklyn, and New York City as a whole, creating the so called “crisis” he has to solve. As responsible as any in the government for the destruction, dismantling, and gentrification of the industrial zones in South Brooklyn during his time in the City Council, the Mayor has long been allied with real estate interests like Bruce Ratner and the Toll Brothers.

He pushed through the decking of the Atlantic Yards for one, a project which still has not yielded “affordable housing” or “community amenities” or anything other than a basketball stadium and a couple of luxury towers which rise above it. For the other, he fought tooth and nail against the Gowanus Canal being named to the Superfund list.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Feckless, the Mayor has announced his intentions to deck over the Sunnyside Yards here in Queens in his mad quest to build 200,000 units of “affordable housing” before he leaves office – which God willing will happen during the next election cycle with the job unfinished. What he doesn’t mention is that much of that “affordable housing” will be incorporated into a far larger build out, using ratios like 60/40 or 70/30 for representing the number of luxury/affordable units found therein. Also, “affordable” means a one bedroom at north of $2,500 a month.

Cynically, his plan involves no new infrastructure – subways, fire, police, or sewer. Ten pounds of people in a five pound bag, indeed. The developments themselves will enjoy long periods of tax free existence, subsidies, and no interest municpal loans which will rob the “city of the future” of any chance to actually pay for the municipal services required to sustain itself. At Atlantic Yards, there is a 99 year tax forebearance on the part of the City which is enjoyed by the Stadium and luxury towers.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A “PINO” or Progressive in Name Only, the Mayor likens himself to LaGuardia and the Roosevelts.

He seeks to stride the national stage, and would do so – he claims – if only the world would listen to him without interrupting. LaGuardia, with Robert Moses, built the highways, tunnels, parks, firehouses, hospitals, libraries, schools, and police stations first. Exurb neighborhoods like Flatbush and Sunnyside bulked up from sleepy hamlets to bustling urban centers when mass transportation became available, not before. You don’t build the housing first, and then hope for the next guy to connect all the dots.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m sure the Mayor is a very nice fellow, and honestly believes he is doing something grand and noble.

I’ve been asking this about him for years though – does he seem like the kind of guy whom you’d trust with something in your personal life that was important? Your wife is pregnant and just about due and you have to leave town on a business trip – is Bill the guy you ask to take her to the hospital? If Rahm Emmanuel of Chicago was lonely, and called Bill in the middle of the night, would he just let it go to voicemail?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Blogging is a lot more fun than journalism, incidentally, as modern journalists aren’t allowed to have opinions. They have to strike a line defined by lawyers and corporatists. The elected officials can, and will, turn access on and off to entire media organizations if they feel that they were treated badly. Accordingly, modern day journalists can’t report the “inside baseball” on these characters, as their entire operation will suffer the payback. They don’t have the budget, frankly, and modern news isn’t about in depth institutional memory anymore. It about forcing some good looking girl to stand out in the middle of a hurricane at Rockaway Beach.

I have no budget, actually, and it pisses me off that the mainstream guys and gals (with a few exceptions, like Marcia Kramer) who do don’t poke at the electeds with a stick often enough.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There were a whole crew of camera people and reporters, an entourage that follows the big fellow around the City as he makes his rounds. The elected officials all came to the mike, one by one, to say how great the “Save Industry” plan is and how needed it was. The big crew who were at the podium at the beginning of the event began to peter out, and after Assemblyman Lentol of Greenpoint said his peace, the Mayor announced to the third estate that Hizzonner would be willing to answer questions which were “on topic.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This tactic is often employed by the de Blasio adminstration, incidentally. “On topic” indicates that the Mayor isn’t interested in discussing the issues or problems which bedevil him, rather it’s meant to be a continuation of the “speechifying” portion of the event during which he can amplify his “message.” This is something which the third estate actually does protest in vociferous tone. Recently, to counter the charges of evasiveness which members of the press have accused him of, the Mayor has instituted “town hall” meetings. A recent one held in Queens saw an audience which was composed only of his supporters, all of whom had been vetted by a local councilman.

Needless to say, the Town Hall was a ribald success, according to City Hall.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So, that’s the post about the time that the Mayor came to Newtown Creek in Greenpoint to announce a very, very important thing. This post is emblematic of the Mayor’s problem, by the way. No matter how good or bad the policy is, he’s always in the way of it. The guy could have improved sliced bread, but you’d be suspicious of “why” he was tinkering with baked goods and discover that he’s had a life long relationship with a bagel consortium or something who were early contributors to his campaign.

I wonder what this industrial zone protection thing is actually about – as in who it is really designed for rather than who it’s said to benefit. Were there that many hotels opening in industrial neighborhoods that it required the “full court press” from City Hall? Define what you mean by “hotel”? Who benefits from this? Who loses? Can the City still continue to place homeless shelters in industrial zones? What about “single room occupancy” and other “short stay” apartments?

Also, if industrial zones are going to be protected, what about the one adjoining the Sunnyside Yards?

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Written by Mitch Waxman

November 17, 2015 at 11:00 am

shaky strokes

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The Invisible Flame, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pictured above is the so called “Unnamed Canal” tributary of Newtown Creek, found in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint. Roughly analogous to North Henry Street’s intersection with Kingsland Avenue, were North Henry’s northern terminus not enclosed entirely within the NYC DEP’s Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant’s fence line.

Directly to the west is the former DSNY Maritime Waste Transfer station, to the east is the home of Allocco Recycling. Sharp eyes will notice the Newtown Creek Alliance Living Dock project bobbing around in the water at the eastern, or left side of the shot.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A fairly uncommon view of the sewer plant, with its iconic stainless steel digester eggs dominating the shot. These eggs process “thickened sludge” using biological processes. What comes out of them has been effectively sterilized by the micro organisms which are cultivated and maintained within, but the process does generate several waste products along the way. Within, a material called “Struvite” collects on the hard surfaces which requires the DEP to perform maintenance at regular intervals to scrape the stuff away.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another byproduct of the digester process are mephitic gases. The four Venturi jet structures you see at the left side of the image above are the exhaust pipes for the process, and the mephitic gas they are designed to handle is Methane, which is burned off. When the system first came online, the Methane flames were the characteristic bright blue turning to orange that anyone with a domestic stove is familiar with. Passerby on the Long Island Expressway who saw the flames would regularly call 911 to report a fire occurring at the plant. The DEP responded by “tuning” the speed and temperature of the Venturi structures to render the flames invisible.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The largest point source of greenhouse gases on the Brooklyn side of the Newtown Creek, these jets produce an invisible flame whose only visual cue is the diffraction of light. The DEP has famously entered into a contract with the National Grid corporation, which will harvest the Methane currently being burnt off. National Grid will use the Methane to augment their “Natural Gas” network, selling it to their customers.

The Invisible Flame, btw, is an analogy used in Islamic mysticism when referring to a supranatural race of mischievous or malign spirits whom they call the Djinn. Western Europeans use the term “Demon” for the Djinn.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 29, 2015 at 1:00 pm

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