The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘Maspeth’ Category

hither come

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Get on the boat, for #superfun with the Working Harbor Committee.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On May 31, I’ll be narrating on a boat tour of Newtown Creek for the Working Harbor Committee. WHC is offering a special $30 ticket price, discounted to $25 for seniors. It’s a two hour tour which will leave from Pier 11 in Manhattan at 11 a.m. I’m anticipating having a couple of other guest speakers onboard, but that’s still firming up.

For tix to WHC’s morning tour with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman, on Newtown Creek. For group rates, or questions – contact Working Harbor Committee at workingharbor@aol.com

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Maritime History of Newtown Creek is one largely forgotten in these decadent times, but even now an odd tugboat and barge might be spied making their way down the waterway on any given day. 19th century Property owners were considered to have been blessed by some of the finest industrial bulkheads in the world, yet many of the businesses based along the Creek today ignore this invaluable resource, allowing their waterfront property to decay and decline.

Along these bulkheads, great fortunes have risen.

Amongst others- Peter Cooper (BO Railroad, Canton Iron, and Cooper Union), Charles Pratt (Astral Oil, Standard Oil, and Pratt University), and ultimately John D. Rockefeller (Standard Oil) – all grew richer than the dreams of avarice in this place. Alongside them, the darkest mills of the industrial revolution- rendering plants, yeast distilleries, bone blackers, and acid factories provided tens of thousands of jobs to the immigrant populations of Brooklyn and Queens. Today – National Grid, BP, Amoco, ExxonMobil, and a host of other multinational companies still maintain an enormous investment in this valuable industrial canal at the very center of New York City.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Vast operations will be witnessed by those onboard, many of which are involved in the scrap metal and recyclables trade. Responsible for an enormous amount of cross harbor shipping, companies such as SimsMetal are heavily reliant on the maritime trades for their economic success. This is also the the birthplace of Mobil Oil, and was the home base in NYC for the Standard Oil Company.

Not all that long ago, Newtown Creek carried a greater tonnage of cargo than the entire Mississippi River.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A tributary of the estuarine East River, Newtown Creek extends some 3.8 miles from its junction with the more familiar waterway, and provides demarcation for the currently undefended border of much of Brooklyn and Queens. Named to the Federal Superfund list in 2010, the Creek suffers from a centuries long history of environmental degradation and municipal neglect.

An era of great change is upon the Newtown Creek, and this trip will be one of your last chances to be exposed to it in its current form.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

May 3, 2015 –
DUBPO, Down Under the Pulaski Bridge Onramp
with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman, a free tour offered as part of Janeswalk 2015, click here for tickets.

May 31, 2015 –
Newtown Creek Boat Tour
with Working Harbor Committee and Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman, click here for tickets.

offhand solution

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Easter, a great weekend for probable trespassing.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Ask any of the Urban Explorer types who have encountered your humble narrator over the years, and they’ll recount my lecture about doing things nice and legal. I still adhere to this philosophy, in general, but when I specifically request access to photograph a site – through proper channels – and my request is ignored… over and over and over… well…

What’s a boy to do? You come to Newtown Creek, and you don’t even invite me over for a coffee? Ok, no more Mr. Nice Guy.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

First off, your Union employees left the gates wide open on Easter weekend. This is kind of disturbing, but not unusual. One Christmas, some dummy left the gates to the Sunnyside Yard open and unguarded. This is the sort of thing that I know, and y’all don’t, because you live in an office and I live in the street. That’s the BQE back there, and I could have had unchallenged access to its foundations. I’m a good guy, but… what if I wasn’t?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Second, the contractor who’s doing the demo work for y’all really needs to train on addressing dust remediation, which is defined as setting up a hose and a lawn sprinkler in this sort of situation. They never do this at Brownfield sites around Newtown Creek, because they think nobody is watching, but one just needs to smell the “Breeze” to know who the demo contractor at work is.

I’ve been watching them for years.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Third, It might be smart to secure spots like this one, wherein the structural integrity of a building has been compromised. Don’t worry, I didn’t enter the site, but there was no reason for me not to other than common sense. There were no safety cones, no signs proscribing proper “PPE,” and certainly no security around. I even yelled out “security” at the top of my lungs. Did y’all capture that on camera?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

At your front door, I could have easily slipped inside the job site on a sunny Saturday afternoon – unchallenged. The only thing holding me back from doing so was… well… respect. I never cross a fence line, as I’m like a Vampire, and need to be invited in before I can do my work.

So, the question is this… Are you going to allow me and the readers of this – your Newtown Pentacle – a chance to peer in periodically, or are we just going to play cat and mouse for the next decade? Either way, I’ll get my shots. Up to y’all.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

May 3, 2015 –
DUBPO, Down Under the Pulaski Bridge Onramp
with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman, a free tour offered as part of Janeswalk 2015, click here for tickets.

May 31, 2015 –
Newtown Creek Boat Tour
with Working Harbor Committee and Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman, click here for tickets.

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 9, 2015 at 11:00 am

nearly total

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Humbug.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Everyone’s got a cool ride, it seems. Your humble narrator would particularly like a somewhat militarized version of the DSNY Earth Mover pictured above. Mine would be painted black, with an illustration of a dragon riding sword chick (wearing boob armor like Red Sonja, natch) dueling with a witch in front of an impossibly large full moon on the scoop. A less dated motif for my earth mover would be to entirely cover it in googly eyes that jiggled about as I drove around and… y’know… moved earth.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This goldenrod VW micro bus hasn’t moved from this spot on 43rd street in Maspeth for at least a couple of months now, and I’m beginning to suspect a Dr. Who sort of thing might be going on. Is this Volkswagen bigger on the inside, despite what I remember about the automotive line’s interior dimensions? What’s odd, actually, is the fact that a brightly colored machine can remain in this location for so long without becoming soiled by the ambient airborne particulates and pollutants which distinguishes this part of the ancient village. The BQE is literally on the next corner, and Newtown Creek is just down the hill.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over on Northern Boulevard, this fellow was spotted providing the motive force required to actuate his ride along the busy thoroughfare. One applauds the desire to become energy independent, but cautions against this sort of thing. Northern Boulevard is an automotive death machine, from the pedestrian point of view, and you are far better off being inside of a giant metal box than without.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

December 5, 2014 at 12:36 pm

worse because

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DUKBO, in Queens, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

“The truth of our times, as told in graphic narrative” requires a lot of boots on the ground time, and a lot of that is spent wandering through industrial hinterlands like DUKBO.

Down Under the Kosciuszko Bridge Onramp, Brooklyn side – was described recently in this space.

The NY State DOT contacted a humble narrator regarding my christening of the water body that has appeared on Gardner Avenue and used to be Cherry Street as “Lake Skanska.” It seems that my assertion that the water was the byproduct of their demolition project was incorrect, and they asked me to share with the readers of this – your Newtown Pentacle – that a broken fire hydrant belonging to the NYC DEP was the culprit behind Lake Skanska.

Today, the shots are from the Queens side of DUKBO.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

43rd street will soon be “used to be 43rd street” when the sweeping changes that the Kosciuszko Bridge replacement project will bring begin. The demolition of the factory buildings currently underway on “used to be Cherry Street” will be replicated here.

The State of New York has already purchased the properties and relocated the corporate entities which have existed in this shadowland angle between Maspeth and Blissville which was once known as Berlin, which were found along 43rd street, which itself was once called “The Shell Road.”

My understanding of the Kosciuszko Bridge plan is that the new structure will be taking a small step to the east of the current 1939 vintage span, hence the “used to be” nomenclature I’ve assigned to both Cherry Street in Brooklyn and 43rd Street here in Maspeth. These little street ends at 55th avenue, and 54th drive, avenue, and road are soon to be “kaput.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ll miss the whimsical stuff here in DUKBO, although I imagine the working guys and Calvary Cemetery will still be quite present when the new bridge is finished. Given the City’s current leanings, of course, it would be just like the Manhattan folks to try and site a few homeless shelters out here after the project is done, especially if they could get the State to pay for the construction. Either that or they’ll invite some real estate industrial complex type to build a condo tower, out here in DUKBO.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

December 3, 2014 at 11:00 am

henceforward have

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Anniversaries, antichrists, and apocalypse.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Something about the centennial mark of the “fin de siécle” made one think about Mt. Zion cemetery, which is pictured in today’s post. The term refers to the end of the 19th century in its literal interpretation, but broader usage of “fin de siécle” is meant to imply the sense of doom which the late 19th century’s artists and academics expressed. They knew it was coming, the end of the age, an apocalypse.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s interpretation and intuition being offered everywhere online today about the century marker for the First World War’s official start. There’s the version of the story which talks about all the war dead, the one where the United States became “America!!!” because of the conflict, and the chestnut about the decline of the European peninsula from its former status as the center of colonial supremacy. The antichrist appeared in Russia, and he raised a godless rogue state from the ashes of the Tsarist form of government.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Personally, I’ve always ascribed to the concept of the “Second Thirty Years War” when describing the state of world affairs between 1914 and 1945, but that period is less “fin de siécle” and more “birth pangs of the modern era,” from our perspective. We know how the story comes out.

The First World War was actually a war of industrial bases when you think about it. Vast international death machines require long logistical supply lines, or so I am told, many of which stretched all the back to my beloved Newtown Creek oddly enough. Given my particular love of the industrial sectors of LIC and Greenpoint surrounding the waterway, which were at their height during WW1, I try to only think of cemeteries when considering the conflict. Keeps me even, and helps hint at why Granpa Alex didn’t ever want to talk about the war.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 4, 2014 at 12:42 pm

Things to do

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Lots of cool fun coming up.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On Monday the 21st of July, your humble narrator will be part of a triad reading H.P. Lovecraft’s “Horror at Red Hook” in Greenwood Cemetery – at night. This is an Atlas Obscura Event, one which I’m pretty excited about participating in. We will actually be entering the mausoleum of the Suydams.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Also with Atlas Obscura, the Insalubrious Valley walking tour of Newtown Creek is on my schedule for the 26th of July. This is one of my favorite tours, which starts in East Williamsburg (or Bushwick as it used to be called) and crosses the Newtown Creek into Maspeth. We end up at the Goodfellas Diner, and lunch is included in the ticket price. Tix link at the bottom of this post, below.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the 27th, a Sunday, I’ll be out with Brooklyn Brainery checking out the East River and Newtown Creek coastlines of Greenpoint (which also, coincidentally, used to be called Bushwick) on the Glittering Realms tour. Come with? Tix link at the bottom of this post, below.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

There are two Newtown Creek walking tours coming up.

Saturday, July 26th, The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek
With Atlas Obscura, lunch included, click here for tickets and more info.

Sunday, July 27th, Glittering Realms
With Brooklyn Brainery, lunch included, 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

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