The Newtown Pentacle

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equal and largest

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More scenery from DUKBO, in today’s post.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Brooklyn’s DUKBO, or Down Under the Kosciuszko Bridge Onramp, is an agglutination of waste transfer stations, trucking companies, and the heaviest of industries. It sits beyond the Meeker Avenue Plumes, just east of the Newtown Creek Petroleum district and the Greenpoint Oil Spill. It is bisected and defined by the Brooklyn Queens Expressway. The very air you breathe is a poisonous fume, and the dust carried upon the breeze is rife with volatile organic compounds and asbestos.

Other than that, it’s very nice, and totally “metal.”

- photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned yesterday, DUKBO is the site of a huge infrastructure project which is just beginning – the replacement of the 1939 vintage Kosciuszko Bridge. The path of the new bridge will carry it through what used to be Cherry Street. The factories and industrial buildings which line Cherry Street are in the process of being demolished, and the rubble carted away. Who will miss the live poultry warehouse that once stood here, and the streams of chicken feces which once pooled laconically in the street, other than me?

One decided to have one last look at the place, in anticipation of last week’s “Poison Cauldron with Atlas Obscura” walk, before the Skanska Kiewit team kick into high gear in the coming months and this part of Brooklyn becomes a no-go zone due to the construction.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

One will miss these concrete devastations, along with that old blue beast of a bridge. As I understand the plan, the new bridge will stand on Cherry Street itself, span Newtown Creek albeit at a far lower altitude than the current structure, and enter Queens at about 43rd street. On the Maspeth side, no where near this level of activity has started yet, by the way. There’s a bunch of what seem to be union carpenters at work in the former NYPD tow yard, but I haven’t seen any demolition work going on.

Yet.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

November 12, 2014 at 11:00 am

good sized

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DUKBO, Down Under the Kosciuszko Bridge Onramp.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

I can tell you many things about DUKBO in Greenpoint without ever mentioning an acid factory or a night soil dock. Just last week, one was compelled for professional reasons to enter the area during business hours. For those of you not in the know, the New York State Department of Transportation has engaged the Skanska Kiewit company to demolish an existing 1939 model Kosciuszko Bridge shortly after building the first half of a replacement span.

A massive undertaking, the DOT has bought up the easements and buildings that stand in the path of the project on both sides of the Newtown Creek. Cherry Street in Greenpoint no longer functionally exists, accordingly.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Demolition projects generate a lot of dust, which is kept under control via the usage of water. Unfortunately, an enormous pile of water has accumulated at Gardner Avenue and used to be Cherry Street. It makes for a nice photo, if I say so myself, but winter is coming and this is a neighborhood of trucks which are doing truckish things.

One would offer and infer that this pond in DUKBO might become known to the children of North Brooklyn as Lake Skanska.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

One also envisions certain nightmarish winter scenarios wherein a speeding packer truck might suddenly encounter a frozen Lake Skanska, the water caught in the grip of some sort of environmental vortex. Whether polar, equatorial, antipodal, paranormal, or temporal – a vortex of any kind is never a good thing when heavy machinery is involved. The truck loses traction on the icy surface of Lake Skanska and careens through the nearby fence line of National Grid, impacting one of the LNG tanks, and… well, we’d see the flash, but the blast wave would certainly remove Western Queens and North Brooklyn from all but the most cautionary of conversations.

Down Under the Kosciuszko Bridge Onramp, lords and ladies, DUKBO.

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too vivid

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The Brooklyn Queens Expressway, what a gas.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week, an assignment I was working on sent me packing back home to Astoria from Red Hook in a Taxi, and one became sublimely bored as the driver negotiated through traffic. As is my way, the camera was deployed to see “if I can get anything worth keeping.” Every time that I see, or cross, the Kosciuszko Bridge these days – a sense of finality kicks in and it occurs that I really should get some shots of it since there will shortly not be a bridge to be shot – rather it will be a construction site.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

For the camera folks out there, these shots were captured with settings of f1.8 at around 1/250th of a second at ISO 2000+. It’s actually pretty dark up there, something which I’ve never been able to understand given the number of street and vehicle lights, but there you are. I guess there’s a lack of ambient light coming up from Newtown Creek and Calvary Cemetery.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Your humble narrator has nearly caught up on a couple of projects which have been weighing heavily, and is anxious to get back to weightier matters around the Creeklands. Another week or so and one should be free of entanglement and distraction. There’s also a couple of autumn walking tours I need to tell you about, but that will have to wait for a day or two.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 8, 2014 at 10:50 am

physical resistance

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This is actually a Newtown Pentacle post, sorry for the spam this morning.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Not sure how, as my passwords etc. were still secure when I checked, but at 8:24 this morning – a spam posting propagated out from this site. First time in better than 5 years that there’s been a breech, but security protocols (changing passwords, mainly) have been invoked. Sorry for the spam, however, but… y’know, hackers and spam bots are clever.

The offending post has been removed from the Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr feeds, but there’s nothing I can do about the emailed subscriber feed so please delete it without clicking on the links. Believe me when I tell you, the last thing I wanted to deal with before finishing my coffee was this.

Your humble narrator is preparing for quite a busy weekend, after all.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

On Saturday, I’ll be leading an excursion with the Atlas Obscura folks in Long Island City. 13 Steps around Dutch Kills will explore the Queens tributary of Newtown Creek and wind up over in Brooklyn. We’re meeting at the corner of Jackson Avenue and 23rd street at 11 a.m. and the walk will be around three hours or so. There’s lots of great stuff to take pictures of, and the route will carry us along one of my favorite paths. Advance tix are recommended, click here for the link, but walkups are also very welcome if you’re a last minute sort of lord or lady.

The tour will set you back $20, and as it’s the last Dutch Kills walk of 2014, come with?

- photo by Mitch Waxman

On Sunday, the tour will be in DUKBO – Down Under the Kosciuszko Bridge Onramp - a part of brooklyn which I fondly refer to as “the Poison Cauldron.” This is likely the second to last time EVER that this tour will happen, as the coming bridge project is going to tear most of this area down. I was there last weekend and most of the businesses are gone, leaving behind a post industrial moonscape. We’ll be walking through petroleum country at the beginning, and I’ll be telling the story of Standard Oil and the Greenpoint Oil Spill along the path. Seriously, if you’ve been putting off coming on one of these, do it now. The Poison Cauldron of the Newtown Creek will soon be a construction zone, which will preclude exploration.

This tour is being produced by the good folks from Brooklyn Brainery, whose ticketing page is found here. Walkups are very welcome, we’ll be at the corner of Kingsland and Norman Avenues in Greenpoint at 10 a.m. The tour will set you back $25.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Walking Tours-

Saturday, September 27th, 13 Steps Around Dutch Kills
Walking Tour with Atlas Obscura, click here for tickets and more info.

Sunday, September 28th, The Poison Cauldron of the Newtown Creek
Walking Tour with Brooklyn Brainery, click here for tickets and more info.

tangible stream

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To plunder, butcher, steal, these things they misname empire: they make a desolation and they call it peace.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

A colloquial translation from Tacitus’s Agricola, attributed to the Caledonian Chieftain Calgacus, the little ditty at the top of this post was originally written in Latin (as you’d imagine). The original goes like this – Auferre, trucidare, rapere, falsis nominibus imperium; atque, ubi solitudinem faciunt, pacem appellant.

It’s exactly what I was thinking while transiting through the Brooklyn side of DUKBO, Down Under the Kosciuszko Bridge Onramp, just the other day as one spotted this thoroughly destroyed truck.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s hardly the Roman Empire affecting these parts, rather it’s the Empire State. The properties and businesses all along Cherry Street have been vacated, as have all but one of the waste transfer stations which used to underlie the Kos, all in the name of the NY State project which will be replacing the 1939 era truss bridge with a new cable stay bridge.

What you’ve got down here, in the interim between now and then (then being the beginning of construction on the new bridge) is the absolute dream of every illegal dumper and freelance mechanic in NYC.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

My understanding of the project suggests that Cherry street will cease to be, as the BQE and the new bridge will sit slightly east of the current span. Parts of Meeker Avenue will shift a bit as well. Accordingly, the Empire (state) has been acquiring properties on both sides of Newtown Creek for quite awhile and making sure that they have a clear path.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

As far as the titular subject of this post, being the skeleton of a semi truck and trailer, my understanding is that the vehicle had been brought to this spot approximately a week or so ago. It had caught fire on the BQE, and was towed off the highway by FDNY. Evidence of my eyes suggests that this is not true, as there would be visible scorch marks on the onramps, and the street that the thing sits on does not betray the presence of the foam suppressants that FDNY typically deploys during vehicle fires.

Also, FDNY usually doesn’t let things burn out this completely.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The plants and concrete traffic barriers around the vehicle do not appear to have suffered flames, nor the presence of the 10 to 20 firefighters and their equipment either. Curious, this, but one must accept things in DUKBO as they are.

The whole “towing it off the highway” thing was offered to me by a local witness, so I transmit it as such.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

A good natured Spaniard that called himself “Zumba” and who was working as a mechanic, on a somewhat less immolated truck, and it was he who transmitted the tale of the tow. Zumba inquired if I was working for the City, nervously eyeing my camera, out of probable concern that I might be some sort of taxman seeking to screw up his weekend job. Waxman, I explained.

Zumba kept on walking back and forth to this open hatch as he went about his work. The aperture sits alongside one of the emptied industrial buildings that occlude the path of the new Kosciuszko Bridge. Someone, or something, was passing him tools from down below.

Who can guess, all there is, that might be found down there?

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Walking Tours-

Saturday, September 27th, 13 Steps Around Dutch Kills
Walking Tour with Atlas Obscura, click here for tickets and more info.

Sunday, September 28th, The Poison Cauldron of the Newtown Creek
Walking Tour with Brooklyn Brainery, click here for tickets and more info.

braying donkeys

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Regrets, I’ve had a few.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

“I did what I had to do and saw it through without exemption.” There’s been an awful gnashing of teeth and a clash of cultures going on around the Newtown Creek of late, and a season of controversy has begun. My pal Bernie Ente always warned that as soon as the money began to flow from the various environmental lawsuits, you’d see the carpet baggers and opportunists assert themselves, and the one thing which everyone would forget about is the Newtown Creek itself as they fought over the scraps offered by the Politicians. I’ve been asked, dozens of times now, for my view on the current conflict and – uncharacteristically – I’ve stayed out of it and refused comment. Why? Because it really has nothing to do with me.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

“Yes, there were times, I’m sure you knew, when I bit off more than I could chew.” Your humble narrator knows all the warring parties personally, some of them are even friends. I know that this means I’m trying to be like Sweden, and that the American way is to pick a side, but unlike everyone else – I can recognize a conflict of interest when it crosses my desk and won’t get involved in a war that doesn’t directly affect me. My interest is in the Newtown Creek itself, and telling its historic story, as well as recording the events of the early Superfund era for posterity. Are the factions vying for the control and future of the waterway, and their conflicts, going to matter in the long run? Only time will tell.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

“For what is a man, what has he got?” There’s a side which believes that Brooklyn is invading Queens, and attempting to inflict a Hipster invasion upon it. There’s a side which visualizes a vast conspiracy, the “Non Profit Industrial Complex” as it were, which will insure that all public monies flow through the hands of a chosen elite. There’s a side which just wants to be left alone to pursue their own goals along the Creek, whether it be splashing around in the water or planting gardens along its banks, however sophist these projects may be. What’s been forgotten, in my mind, is the economic engine that the Newtown Creek was, is, and always will be. Also, the real modern villain of the Creek – the sewer system – which dumps millions of gallons of Manhattan’s untreated filth into the water of Brooklyn and Queens every year, continues to operate in the same manner as it did a century ago, and is seldom mentioned anymore.

Of course, I’m just some guy with a camera and a filthy black raincoat, who doesn’t have advanced degrees in urban studies or whatever, so what do I know? I just see things “my way.”

There are two public Newtown Creek walking tours coming up, one in Queens and one that walks the currently undefended border of the two boroughs.

DUPBO, with Newtown Creek Alliance and MAS Janeswalk, on May 3rd.
Click here for more info and ticketing.

Modern Corridor, with Brooklyn Brainery, on May 18th.
Click here for more info and ticketing.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 29, 2014 at 12:01 pm

subsequently worshipped

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A return to DUKBO, and an ending to the hermitage of winter.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned earlier in the week, efforts at re engaging with the lifestyle and physical habits which personal discipline and medical advice demand – habits which this long season of ice and snow have retarded – have been and are underway. A humble narrator has turned into an oddly pallid mass of flabby, quivering, and utterly tumescent gelatin over the winter. Rotting bone and torn cartilage underlies a weakened musculature, and my overall physical and psychological condition has undertaken an unwholesome and worrisome transformation, even my skinvelope has developed an odd translucence.

Wet staring eyes, dull and unblinking, gaze out from beneath a humble narrator’s troubled brow and a voice which may not be a voice speaks in both his dreams and wakeful thoughts. It demands attention, repeating over and over, in a puzzlingly queer collection of wheezing exhalations and hallucinatory percussions, a sound whose closest approximation in the English alphabet can only be expressed as “DUKBO, DUKBO, DUKBO.”

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Problems encountered in this endeavor of physical and spiritual re training have included a series of minor physical maladies. Although many are attributable to the aging process, a couple have been slowing things down noticeably. A bit of tendinitis occurs in a certain knee, while other joints and appendages enjoy and signal the arrival of arthritic symptoms. My back hurts, and so does the middle finger of my right hand, which just seems to spasm out from an otherwise wholesomely clenched fist of its own volition.

The latter may be due to environmental stimuli, and seems to occur a lot when I am in the presence of humans – a habit one is trying to wean himself off of presently.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Right now, a humble narrator can’t wait to get his first solar radiation burns of 2014, when the burning thermonuclear eye of god itself will claim its summer regency over the weather. I’ve decided to follow that sound, a vibration which seems to be calling from both deep within the ground and from above, that rumbling exhortation “DUKBO, DUKBO, DUKBO,” wherever it may lead. Pain and age be damned, who can guess all there is, that might be down there?

The good thing about sunburn - I’ve always thought – is that no matter how dead you are inside, if you’ve got a sunburn you can at least prove to yourself that you are still capable of feeling “something.”

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

March 13, 2014 at 11:30 am

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