The Newtown Pentacle

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defined apprehensions

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Twirling, ever twirling.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The affability of recent climate has seen me visiting old haunts and novel locale alike in recent weeks, which might be described as having been a somewhat pleasurable set of experiences. That would mean, of course, that your humble narrator was actually capable of experiencing a sensation called “pleasure.” A series of dull events punctuated by occasional gastro-intestinal distress, all sorts of bacterial and viral infections, and the oft bizarre actions of others is the way one such as myself describes “Life.”

One bright spark in the otherwise gathering clouds of existential horror which plague me are unexpected moments of serendipity.

A train passing by can excite one endlessly, and reminds that “you have to appreciate the little things.”

In my case, it’s big things that go “thruuummmm thruuuuuuummmm thruuummmm” or “claaacckkclaaacckkclaaacckk” as they pass by, but I’m all ‘effed up.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Good days are ones where I’m not walking to go anyplace in particular. Days when I leave the house and decide only which compass point to walk toward. For some reason, its not east that often, as that’s usually looking into the light. Instinct always points my path towards water, no matter where I am. It was kind of interesting finding myself in Queens Plaza, which I used to inhabit back in 2009 and 2010 during the Queensboro Bridge Centennial period but which I mainly cross through these days on my way to someplace in Brooklyn or Hunters Point.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Luckily, Our Lady of the Pentacle had agreed to visit the Brooklyn Grange roof top farm here in Astoria with a friend of ours who subscribes to their CSA program and I tagged along. While they picked up some quality produce, I got busy with the camera. Serendipity at work, when I woke up that morning, seeing this vista overlooking the Sunnyside Yards and the Shining City of Manhattan was not on the menu.

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spectral summer

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Damnation, hell, and other allegories plague my days.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s a gull catching the free ride on the Staten Island Ferry, a critter smarter than me who says “why walk (or fly) when you can ride?” Severe fatigue marks this day for a humble narrator. A freelance assignment carried one out to storied Red Hook yesterday, a trip made remarkable by the atypically wonderful weather. Having clicked the shutter while pointing the camera at my intended targets, and not having much else to do for the afternoon, one decided to walk home to Astoria.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The shot above depicts what the City looks like from the water, at night. Walking from Red Hook to Astoria sounds insane, I know, but it’s only about 10 miles from A to B. Along the way, one gets to witness the majesty of the East River while moving out of Red Hook, into Brooklyn Bridge Park, through Vinegar Hill, past the Navy Yard, into Williamsburg and Greenpoint, over the Pulaski into Hunters Point, and then the Queensbridge, Ravenswood, and finally Astoria neighborhoods are encountered in Queens. It takes around four to five hours to do this section of the western coast of Long Island.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

My beloved Dutch Kills, above. When you return home, a little puff of steam is released as you doff your shoes. You really do feel it the next day, mainly in the lateral part of the hips, which is where my feeling of fatigue comes in.

It’s actually so silly cool a walk that I’m considering organizing a free event on the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend, the 29th of November, and calling it the “Red Hook to Astoria Challenge.” This won’t be a tour, per se, it’ll be more of a hang out. More to come on this.

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This weekend-

Saturday, August 16th, LIC’s Modern Corridor
With Atlas Obscura, click here for tickets and more info.

greatest suddenness

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Vas doin on English Kills, boychik, mit the bubbles?

- photo by Mitch Waxman

DUMABO. Down Under the Metropolitan Bridge Onramp, is a spot that bisects the pathway of the so called “industrial Canals of Brooklyn” or English Kills. The darkest thicket of the troubled Newtown Creek, English Kills is largely isolated from casual perusal by the electorate by a continuous shield wall of industrial buildings, which means that what happens on the water is usually commented on by an unlucky few such as myself. The engineered path that the water flows through follows the Brooklyn street grid, which creates a series of right angle turns that impede the tidal actions of the East River which is some 3 miles from here.

This adherence to the street grid, and the hydrological issues it introduces, has caused huge accretions of the so called “Black Mayonnaise” sediments to agglutinate. This sedimentation, along with the summer heat, causes the water to be “anoxic,” meaning that it often carries little or no dissolved oxygen. This kills off any aquatic life that may have wandered back here, and promulgates the colonies of sewage bacteria in the water whose aromatic exhalations remind one of rotting chicken eggs.

The sewage bacteria is provided by the many CSO’s (Combined Sewer Outfalls) found along the waterway.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

To combat these anoxic conditions, the ever reliable NYC DEP (in concert with the state DEC) have installed an aeration system. Basically a giant pipe through which pressurized air is pumped, the thing operates in the same manner as a bubble wand on your aquarium fish tank. Disturbing the surface allows atmospheric gases like oxygen to become dissolved in the water. The DEP building you’ll notice on Metropolitan Avenue in East Williamsburg that adjoins the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge contains the air compressors.

It all sounds rather logical, as the efforts of engineers often do. Problem is that the sewage bacteria conditions are being caused by the Combined Sewer Outfalls on English Kills, which the DEP engineers are not focusing on. It’s sort of like shitting in a fish tank every day, and attaching more and more aerating bubble wands to combat the conditions being caused, without doing anything about… y’know, not shitting in your aquarium.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Here’s the problem - my pals over at Riverkeeper have voiced MAJOR concerns about this system, and cite a study by M. Elias Dueker which shows that bacterial fauna from English Kills are provided with an opportunity to enter the air via this system. A “Culturable Bacterial Aerosol” as they describe it, is allowed purchase into the atmosphere.

Said organisms can then find a home on any friendly terrestrial surface.

In effect, these bubbles provide a ladder for the worst pathogens in the Newtown creek watershed an opportunity to get up and out of the water. Keeping this sort of bacteria away from the general populace is sort of the mission of the DEP, btw.

from riverkeeper.org

Riverkeeper raised concerns when the city proposed aerating the rest of the creek last spring and asked the DEP to test for pathogens and sewage associated bacteria in the air, which they did not agree to do. Aeration creates bubbles on the water’s surface and is a Band Aid solution to the underlying serious problem of combined sewage overflows. Low oxygen conditions in the creek occur due to sewage contamination and although aeration increases the oxygen level in the water, it does not reduce the amount of sewage or sewage associated bacteria that are dumped into the creek. Riverkeeper has argued that aeration is an ineffective way of addressing the pollution problem and the recent study suggests that it may also negatively impact local air-quality.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Worse still, the aeration system performs its job quite well. Dissolved oxygen levels in English Kills are higher than they used to be. Accordingly, the DEP is planning on expanding the system from English Kills all the way to the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge, more than a mile away.

The pipes are planned to follow the contour of the Queens coastline, of course, because you wouldn’t be able to get away with doing it on the Brooklyn side. This puts Maspeth, and parts of Sunnyside and Blissville, in the path of the pestilent wind which would rise from the loathsome Newtown Creek.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

August 5, 2014 at 12:25 pm

habitual vacancy

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Maritime Monday? What’s with me these days?

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Over at my Brownstoner column today, an article detailing a boat trip up Newtown Creek (called “my beloved Creek“) which brought members of the Newtown Creek CAG to the waterway on the 11th of July is described.

It’s a pretty long read, and describes a site visit and boat excursion which was initiated by the “Newtown Creek Group” who are the “Potentially Responsible Parties” named by the Federal EPA in the Superfund listing of Newtown Creek. While we were out on the boat, the Thomas D. Witte tug from Donjon towing happened along.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Likely coming from SimsMetal, the tug was engaged in guiding two barges out of Newtown Creek towards the East River. Maritime industrial usage of the Creek wasn’t really a part of the discussion while we were onboard our boat. The PRP and EPA’s contractor, Anchor QEA, had sent out representatives and scientific staff to inform and instruct about their efforts, and the extensive schedule of scientific analyses which they’ve been engaged in for the last few years.

They also wanted to discuss the future.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Quoting from the Brownstoner piece -

“Once upon a time, the industrial Newtown Creek represented nearly two million jobs spread across its vast watershed, and it carried a greater tonnage of cargo than the entire Mississippi River. It’s 3.8 miles long, providing the currently undefended border of Brooklyn and Queens, and sits at the dead bang center of New York City.

What do you want to see happen here on Newtown Creek? The Federal EPA, the City of New York, even the so called “Potentially Responsible Parties” or Newtown Creek Group are requesting your input.  What do you say, Maspeth – and Blissville – and Ridgewood – and Sunnyside – and LIC?”

The Newtown Creek CAG summer meeting will be coming up soon.

 

“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.

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.

lean notary

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Shots from all over the edge of a Long Island.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Over at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, a cargo ship was unloading a load of concrete manufacture supplies. The ship was performing the unloading process all by itself, with a series of swing out booms and cranes with mechanical buckets and shovels all busily employed. These shots were all gathered during the Solstice, when everything looks a bit ethereal, as the burning thermonuclear eye of god itself is in its position of annual primacy over the megalopolis.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

You can’t see the Williamsburg Bridge lit like this during winter time, as the angle of the burning thermonuclear eye of god itself is considerably less efficacious. My camera’s color and light meters were all over the place when I shot these, as what would normally be thought of as afternoon lighting lasted well past 6 pm – I think this particular shot was from around 6:30-7. Notice the wild angle that the light is falling at – longest day of the year light.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

This is from pretty late in the day, as the burning thermonuclear eye of god itself is finally slipping down past the shield wall of Manhattan. It depicts my beloved Newtown Creek, as shot from a familiar spot on the Pulaski Bridge. It’s a handheld shot, and is a bit grainy, but there was just something wonderful about the scene – couldn’t resist.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

There are two Newtown Creek walking tours coming up.

Saturday, June 28th, The Poison Cauldron
With Atlas Obscura, click here for tickets and more info.

Sunday, June 29th, The Insalubrious Valley
With Brooklyn Brainery, lunch included, click here for tickets and more info.

to overtake

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Glamorous thrill in today’s post.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Not once, but twice, have I been invited to ride along with people in their automobiles in the last week. Motor coaches were once a significant part of a humble narrators life, when jaunts and journeys would carry one across the megalopolis, but my current incarnation is that of the pedestrian so when an opportunity to hurtle along in a steel motor box comes along – I take it. Of course, that doesn’t stop me from waving the camera around. Pictured above, the Penny Bridge section of my beloved Newtown Creek as witnessed from the high flying Kosciuszko Bridge captured while traveling at about 30 mph.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

One of my destinations was over at the border of Bushwick and Williamsburg in infinite Brooklyn. While gathering this shot of a “sweet pete” truck, one had to work quickly as my presence had awoken the pack of dogs that patrol this yard. Didn’t wish to set them off, so I shot and ran. That’s the thrilling part.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Last Tuesday’s fog lent a certain atmospheric quality to another shot gathered while hurtling over the Kosciuszko Bridge. A dream of mine is to actually have some time to linger up here, but that would close lanes on the busy Brooklyn Queens Expressway, and I’ve already pissed off enough of my fellow New Yorkers over the years.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

There’s two FREE Newtown Creek walking tours coming up.

Sunday, June 15th, DUPBO – Down Under the Pulaski Bridge Onramp
A FREE tour, courtesy of Green Shores NYC, click here for rsvp info

Sunday, June 21st, America’s Workshop
A FREE tour, courtesy of Green Shores NYC, click here for rsvp info

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