The Newtown Pentacle

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second to nothing

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Dredging operations on the Newtown Creek are underway.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

After a couple of false starts and delayed beginnings, DonJon Towing is finally getting busy over on my beloved Creek. The dredging project is designed to provide a maritime channel for a new class of DEP Sludge Boats (see this Newtown Pentacle post from back in January of this year for details on the new boats) which will use a dock on Whale Creek, rather than the current East river facility, to accept the processed material produced by the Newtown Creek Waste Water Treatment Plant in Greenpoint.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

These shots were gathered yesterday, at Whale Creek – a Brooklyn side tributary of Newtown Creek which the sewer plant wraps around.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Unfortunately, due to a busy work schedule and weather issues, I only managed to get there late in the afternoon and missed the action. This little push boat was busily managing the barges into a docking position, however.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The dredging rig was the Delaware Bay, which is a 225 foot long monster commissioned in 2008, and outfitted with a 123 foot long boom and crane.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the actual dredging bucket, which is outfitted with some sort of esoteric gasket system. I’ve never felt pity for a big steel machine before, but… Yuck… this is Newtown Creek.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The whole operation is meant to continue on for about six weeks. The initial phase of it, here on Whale Creek, will only be operating 12 hours a day, but once they work their way out onto the main body of the Creek – probably Tuesday of next week, they will go 24/7.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

This little Survey boat was buzzing about, and I’m told it carried a battery of sonar equipment which allowed visualization of the dredging work in real time. There’s a lot of stuff down there, pipelines and cables and such, for the DonJon crews to watch out for.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

A DEP contractor was on hand performing air quality tests and odor control functions. This was his little weather station.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Also part of this contractors kit was a Hydrogen Sulfide monitor, which measures concentrations of the compound released from the underwater sediments during the dredge process.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s critical, once the operation moves out of Whale Creek and heads west towards the more populated sections of the Creek in Greenpoint and Hunters Point, that you call 311 if you’re being affected by smells or noise. Also, I’ve been told that the NCWWTP Nature Walk will be closed for the weekend, in the name of safety.

If you smell something, say something, and call 311.

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unavoidable oversight

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What the end of the world will look like, as observed in Greenpoint USA.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Manhattan’s recyclable paper and plastic went up in flames in Greenpoint the other night, when a blaze began at the Rapid Processing Center on Humboldt St. and Greenpoint Ave. at around 7 p.m. on March 18th. The operation was in the Waste Transfer Station Recycling business, acting as a depot for the unloading of the DSNY’s white packer trucks which perform curbside pickup of paper and plastic materials.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

In the end, it took 200 firefighters and all of their arts to fight this four alarm fire.

Almost as soon as it started, social media sites like Facebook began to light up as well with comments and queries offered by community members about the fire and the possible hazards of being exposed to its smoke and effluents.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

It seems that the torrents of water used to combat the blaze also flooded the streets, and news reports described a lake of water on Greenpoint Avenue, which carried garbage off the site and allowed it to move around with the wind as flotsam. As you can see in the shot above, puddles of unusual size persist, and carry a sheen of something on their surface.

These shots were captured yesterday, March 23rd, and the mound of material was still smoldering.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The structure is a total loss, obviously, and I did observe air quality monitoring equipment at work. Directly following the fire, FDNY announced that there was nothing, air quality wise, for the community to fret about.

Of course, there was reportedly NO air quality monitoring going on during the fire when a plume of (probably) dioxin laced smoke was infiltrating into the neighborhood.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

There was talk following the flooding of Hurricane Sandy about prepositioning environmental sampling kits around Greenpoint, so that actual “time of event” samples could be captured, but that seems to have been forgotten.

Green Infrastructure, instead, is the buzzword of the present day.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

During the fire your humble narrator was safe and sound and upwind in Astoria, but a point was made of interjecting myself into their lively debate to adjure the Greenpointers to call 311 and complain of the smoke, as this would have compelled DEP to set up air monitors DURING the event. No one listened, and no monitors were set up, so everything is fine and nobody was exposed to anything bad.

If you smell something, say something, and call 311.

New York City would not acknowledge the presence of an elephant in the City Council chamber room unless a statistically relevant number of 311 calls were received about it.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

March 24, 2014 at 11:00 am

ragged purple

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My all time favorite tugboat shot.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

This was shot on November 17, 2010.

It’s a memorable date, as a fellow named Andrew Cuomo came to Newtown Creek to announce the formal settlement between NYS and ExxonMobil, concerning the Greenpoint oil spill. The Brian Nicholas entered the Creek at an optimal moment, lighting wise.

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not necessarily

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Sunset at Newtown Creek.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

In Greenpoint to attend a meeting of the Newtown Creek Monitoring Committee, a community group whose mission is citizen oversight of the DEP construction process at the sewer plant, one found himself ridiculously early for the event. Accordingly, having no place else to go due to the pariah status I enjoy when nobody requires something from me, retreat was made to the banks of the loquacious Newtown Creek to confirm that it was still there.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Happily, the waterway had not been paved over in the intervening week since my last visit, and given the specific chronology of my residency there- the diurnal arc of the burning thermonuclear eye of god itself was waning. Atmospherics resulted, as the outer space based fusion ball attained an acute angle to that section of the planet occupied by the great human hive called New York City, painting airborne fumes and miasmas in orange and fuchsia- as pictured.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The NCMC meeting which followed discussed several topics. The disturbing role and intentions of a corporate entity called Veolia (which has been given managerial control over the NYC DEP) came up, as did the subject of a dredging project which the DEP requires to complete a certain phase of the plant’s construction, and the ongoing saga of getting horticultural staff in place at the Nature Walk public space (from which these photos were shot) was also explored. It was all very depressing, but its always nice to be amongst people who aren’t chasing or hurling things at me.

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prosaic materialism

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All believe themselves to be saints, not sinners.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Dia de Los Muertos, Áraw ng mga Patáy, the second day of Samhain, or just plain old All Saints Day- here we are again on the track towards the dark and cold wastes of winter. Given a humble narrators abiding interest in the Newtown Creek and its surrounding communities, its only natural for me to think about those who passed through its coils over the centuries. Will you raise a glass to the saints of local industry- Charles Pratt, John D. Rockefeller, The Van Iderstine family, or Ambrose Kingsland- tonight?

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Something that I’ve been attempting to reconcile for awhile now is the role of these historical figures in the development and despoiling of the Newtown Creek. Hurricane Sandy showed us what it would be like to live in New York City without a functioning energy sector, and it forced me to reconsider these characters beyond the popular narratives of modernity. From an environmentalist point of view, these are loathsome individuals whose crimes against the earth are countless, and their bones should be scattered in the same way that Marius did to Sulla’s. From an economic point of view, the relict grandeur of early 20th century Greenpoint and Long Island City existed solely because of the energy sector, which provided hundreds of thousands of jobs over the course of a century and “lifted the raft” for the entire community.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s so complicated. This tale of industrialists and robber barons, which is one of the central dichotomies of the American mythology with its narrative of progress. At least they did something with the place which was productive, that generated wealth- is how most of the MBAs would see it. Today, most of these MBA types look to Newtown Creek as a place to throw objectionable materials away, whether it be garbage or sewage. Does modernity have the right to judge the past? Can we understand the “on the ground” circumstances that they were working with back in the 19th century? What have we done, to “lift the raft”?

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Written by Mitch Waxman

November 1, 2013 at 10:55 am

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