The Newtown Pentacle

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Creekerie, in today’s post.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

From Greenpoint’s Apollo Street, which is the dead bang omphalos of the Greenpoint Oil Spill, this construction barge was spotted operating on the Queens side. It seemed to be involved in a bulkhead replacement or repair operation at what would likely be the Waste Management facility in Blissville that sits astride the western fringe of a property once known as the Queens County Oil works of Charles Pratt. A humble narrator is not “in the know” on the project, and mainly stopped off at Apollo Street for the most urgent and personal of reasons (the overgrown street end with it’s attendant vegetation is a wonderful spot for urinating).

Interestingly, after zipping up my own tackle and heading back up the sloped dead end street, I passed a fellow who was heading for the street end with a fishing pole and a tackle box.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s hard to for most listeners to believe me when mention is made of the quite active fishing community in Greenpoint (and LIC/Blissville for that matter) that exploits the biota of Newtown Creek. In the environmental community, much mention is made of this pursuit, and the problematic concept of cautionary signage often comes up. Officialdom, when confronted with the idea that people fish here, will tell you that licensed fishermen are instructed against such practices and offered guide lines about the consumption of creatures caught in places like Newtown Creek.

When the idea that zero percent of the people who fish here are licensed, NYS officialdom returns with “it’s illegal to fish without a license.” One understands that it is also illegal to double park, smoke marijuana, or to illegally dump garbage in the street.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The reason that placing any sort of signage along the Newtown Creek is a difficult topic can be best defined by the polyglot nature of the neighborhoods surrounding it. Obivously, the signs would need to be in English and Spanish – the two predominant tongues. You’d also need to do French, Polish, Chinese, Korean, Arabic, and some combination of the several Indian languages as well. Couldn’t hurt to throw in Phillipino, and whatever the hell it is they speak in Africa.

Signs would need to compensate for translation errors, to avoid linguistic traps and transliterations that would render “do not fish here” as a “devil fish kill children quick with oil and fire poisons” sort of thing.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

November 13, 2014 at 11:00 am

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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very small

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Fall Foliage, in today’s post.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

First off, a brief grammatical note: the word “foliage” is pronounced thusly – foal-e-ajj or “foalyaj”- not “foylyaj.” This is something that drives one such as myself crazy, much like the common mispronunciation (favored by a certain recent President) of the word nuclear which renders it as “nookular.”

At any rate, as it is fall foliage season, when autumnal sprites splash the crimson and oranges about – your humble narrator delivers with a seasonal scene. Of course… it’s me, so I went to the overgrown Meeker Avenue Street end at the Newtown Creek for my foliage.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Not living cheek by jowl with the waterway as so many do is certainly a luxury to be enjoyed, just ask anyone in Manhattan.

This pleasure isn’t experienced by the folks who live over in Greenpoint, of course, but there you go. One has been taking a bit of a break from hanging around the Newtown Creek for the last month or so, allowing a bit of detoxification to take place. An interesting anecdote, which several of us that spend a lot of time around the place have commented to each other about, is that we tend not to get sick as often as other people during cold and flu season. Spouses might be on Day 3 of a flu, but we’re fine.

Is Newtown Creek a cure all, or is it merely an antibiotic?

- photo by Mitch Waxman

By antibiotic, I mean anti life in the same sense that the DC Comics villain Darkseid would infer, of course. Best guess would be “environmental adaptation,” presuming that constant exposure to those sewage borne pathogens which find themselves in the Newtown Creek have jacked up our collective immune systems. Whenever I submit blood tests to a Doctor, I always ask if my white cell count seems unusually high.

The answer has been categorically “no,” but I keep on hoping.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

November 10, 2014 at 11:00 am

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

healing balm

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Cry havoc, and let slip the dog of Blissville…

- photo by Mitch Waxman

On my way to a recent Poison Cauldron tour, wherein a group of overtly curious New Yorkers were guided around neighborhood found in Brooklyn’s DUKBO, a rather large canine was spotted. It is my belief that I have met this dog before, and if I’m correct in my assumption of its identity, all one hundred pounds of slavering canine flesh contained in its skinvelope are overtly friendly and desirous of a good scratch. One way or another, he caught my eye whilst a humble narrator was scuttling toward the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Stinging critique is omnipresent in my mind, as always. A novel one has been added to the list over at my Brownstoner Queens column, where someone has characterized a recent post as “classist.” That’s a new one. I’ve been called a lot of things over the last five years or so, but classist ain’t one of them. Just so that you understand where I come from, my Dad called the commode “a terlet” and the conventional wisdom in my family was that the best you could do in life was to pass a civil service exam which would vouchsafe “security” in the form of a job working for the City.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Dogs are generally good, to me at least. Here in Astoria, where a significant number of the neighbors hail from the near east and adhere to the mores of a Muslim upbringing – they’re not so good. There’s a whole other cultural imperative at work with these folks, and they view dogs as “unclean.” Canines aren’t as “haram” as pigs, of course, and I’ve noticed that there seems to be a coefficient to how unclean they are based on geography. Conversation with the neighbors has revealed that folks from the western side of the near east – Lebanon, Egypt etc. – are fairly tolerant of dogs although they are a bit wary about them (much like the Greeks who hail from the Cyclades). When you meet folks from further east – Bangladesh, India etc. – the sudden appearance of a dog amongst them is tantamount to pulling the pin on a grenade. The dividing line between the two points of view seems to be somewhere around the Arabian peninsula. This is entirely unscientific, of course, and based strictly on conversation with the neighbors.

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Open House NY: DUPBO

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Open House New York 2014 – Down Under the Pulaski Bridge Onramp

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Join Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman for an intense exploration of Brooklyn’s Greenpoint and Queens’s Hunters Point neighborhoods, walking along the East River and over the Newtown Creek.

A colonial center and 19th century industrial powerhouse, Greenpoint is a thriving neighborhood cursed by environmental catastrophe. Explore this ancient North Brooklyn neighborhood, and learn its incredible industrial history, while moving inexorably toward the Newtown Creek.

The tour will cross Newtown Creek via the Pulaski Bridge and head into the brave new world and Modern Corridor of Long Island City’s Hunters Point. There will be spectacular waterfront vistas to enjoy, maritime industrial and rail infrastructure to marvel at, and along the way – a few surprises will be encountered. 

- photo by Mitch Waxman

By walking tour standards, this one is pretty low core. The only major physical obstacle we will encounter are the flights of stairs on the Pulaski Bridge. Unlike many of the other walks which explore the industrial zone hinterlands of the Newtown Creek, the DUPBO walk moves through well populated neighborhood streets in Greenpoint and LIC.

Bring your camera! Everywhere we go, just about, you’re going to see postcard panoramas of NYC’s spectacular East River coastline.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Be prepared for rough terrain and possible heavy truck traffic. Dress and pack appropriately for hiking and for weather. Closed-toe shoes are highly recommended. Bathroom opportunities will be found only at the start of the walk. We will be ending in LIC, nearby several mass transit hubs.

This is a free walking tour, part of the 2014 Open House NY weekend, but registration is required. Click here for tix

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