The Newtown Pentacle

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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.

untold agony

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Hoary Greenpoint, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last weekend, the light was spectacular over in Greenpoint, and since I seldom find myself there in the early part of the afternoon – advantage was taken. Manhattan Avenue’s tenements and apartment buildings are framed by Saint Anthony’s Roman Catholic Church in the shot above. St. Anthony’s hosts both a rectory and a convent. The Church is built in the high victorian gothic style, with a 240 foot high steeple, and it laid its cornerstone back in 1873.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Linoleum signage on Manhattan Avenue, for the J. Josephs Sons Co. – a former appliance store. This is vestigial, and part of the character of the street which will shortly be cleansed by the bland homogeneity offered by the Real Estate Industrial Complex’s desire to eradicate all character from the streets of New York City in the name of lining the sidewalks with glass boxes. I cannot imagine what future generations will think.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over on North Henry Street, a seldom seen point of view on the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment plant. This is a quite industrial spot, with a biofuel company and a recycling operation found along the bulkheads of the Newtown Creek. It’s also the “back door” to the sewer plant, where the contractors come and go.

“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.

laugh or frown

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My beloved Creek, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Yesterday, the Newtown Creek Alliance held an event over on the North Henry Street side of DUGABO (Down Under the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge Onramp) in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint section. The point of the gathering was to imagine the future of a small inlet canal which NCA has been referring to as “No Name Canal,” but I defer to NOAA and the Coast Guard who call it “Unnamed Canal.” There’s an fairly abandoned DSNY Marine Transfer Station there, and your humble narrator entertained himself with a bit of illegal trespass. Of course, since this is City owned property, and I’m a citizen of said City, it’s mine (and yours) and therefore I was actually exploring my own property.

Our uniformed employees in the offices of lower Manhattan always seem to forget that they are – in fact – servants, and that this land is ours – not theirs – so I like to remind them of this fact periodically. This makes me fantastically popular on Chambers Street, btw.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Oddly enough, there was a tremendous midden of animal bones on the dock. May of them were clearly sun bleached chicken leg bones, and some had butcher cuts. The quantity was striking, and some specimens were clearly mammal bones – seemingly from large cats or small dogs.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One cannot even begin to speculate about the origins of this ossuary pile found on Municipal land in Greenpoint, along the languid Newtown Creek.

“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 13, 2015 at 12:18 pm

glancing through

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Caution, everyone.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Famously, I wander the earth. There are few places that I won’t go. Photography and eventual postings at this, your Newtown Pentacle follow. When leaving the house, there are seldom objectives in mind, instead I literally just follow my path and keep the sun on my back. There are issues which one cares deeply about, with Newtown Creek at the paramount. For the last month or so, I’ve been talking to a LOT of people about the Sunnyside Yards and discussing my objections to the project proposed by the current Mayor which would deck them over and install the population of Albany atop them.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Inevitably, sometime during the 21st century, some portion of the Sunnyside Yards will be so converted. Likely, it will be the area around 21st street – the so called Arch Street Yard. This is likely, as it adjoins the Jackson Avenue corridor leading from Queens Plaza to the Court Square neighborhood, a zone which is undergoing a radical amount of construction – as discussed in a recent posting at my Brownstoner column.

Thing is, Queens isn’t ready to handle the amount of people this will bring – from a hospital bed, school desk, police officer, fire fighter, transit, or sewage plant point of view. It’s a bad idea being propagated by a weak Mayor whose own electoral coalition is rebelling against him, and who has a terrible record of actually delivering on the affordable housing he offers.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The effect that the Sunnyside Yards will have on my beloved Creek are somewhat terrifying, from a sewage runoff point of view. This is something I’ve been emphatically mentioning to all who would listen, which at this point is a significant number. Quite obviously, someone in City Hall has heard that I’ve been speaking out about this issue.

This is going to sound ridiculously paranoid, I realize, but the last few times that I went out for one of my long walks – I’ve been followed. I feel sorry for whomever has been assigned to do so, of course, as they’re being exposed to a ridiculous amount of pollution – but the surveillance hasn’t escaped me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last Saturday, while walking through Maspeth, a fellow – who I managed to get a shot of (the guy in the black jacket and jeans at the lower left hand corner of the shot, right by the Phelps Dodge property) – followed me for something like two miles. I ducked off the street into a bolt hole nearby Penny Bridge, and reappeared behind him, asking if he was lost and needed directions. His confusion at how to react was actually comical as I offered him walking directions by which he could reach the 7 or G from Review avenue. Yesterday, a plain clothes detective spent his day on the corner opposite my house, swiveling his head around, for something like six hours. I know that you know that I know, now.

You’re not being paranoid if someone is actually surveilling you, and I’ve noticed that they’ve noticed.

“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 10, 2015 at 11:01 am

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

#SUPERFUN on May 31

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Welcome to Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As promised – the big Monday Announcement!!! 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 I’m still firming that up.

For tix’s 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

So what could be more fun than visiting a superfund site? Visiting two, of course.

A separate and distinct excursion will leave from Pier 11 at 1:10 p.m., as Working Harbor Committee’s afternoon trip to the Gowanus Canal embarks. Last I heard, it’s the same deal as Newtown Creek for pricing and tix, and it’s a two hour tour as well.

Click here for tix to WHC’s afternoon tour of the Gowanus Canal.

Newtown Creek is better, of course, because it’s mine.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

pastures and meadows

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Back in the saddle again.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On April 18th, a Saturday, I’ll be leading my first public Newtown Creek walk of 2015 for Newtown Creek Alliance. It’s all about celebrating Earth Day (which is actually the 20th) and we’ll be taking a short walk down a long creek. This is also a 100% free tour, and we’ll be meeting a few interesting people along the way.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Newtown Creek Alliance’s motto is “restore, reveal, revitalize” and my role in the group is designated by that second word – “reveal.” Recently, my tour partner Mai and I counted up all the folks who have come out with me to Newtown Creek over the last few years – whether by bus, van, boat, or on foot – and were staggered to realize that we’ve guided a bit more than two thousand people around the place.

Holy Moley, I guess we must be doing something right.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This tour will start in LIC, visits a few spots along the East River, will proceed to DUPBO (Down Under the Pulaski Bridge Onramp) on both sides of my beloved Creek. We’re going to head over to the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant Nature Walk at the end of the thing. The only thing physically challenging, in the least, that you will encounter are several flights of steps on the Pulaski Bridge. Regardless, closed toe shoes are highly recommended.

Come with, on April 18th, 2015 for a free walking tour of Newtown Creek in LIC and Greenpoint with Newtown Creek Alliance? Click here for your free tix and registration.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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