The Newtown Pentacle

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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.

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unwonted ripples

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Ahh, my beloved Creek… she never disappoints.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week, one found himself visiting the Vernon Avenue Street End in the company of a couple of friends who were busy talking shop. I was idle, and interfering with their conversations, and so went to the water’s edge. A fine view of DUPBO was being enjoyed when the NYC DEP’s Port Richmond Sludge Boat appeared.

“Oh happy day” thought I.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m fairly obsessed with the DEP’s Navy, and my interests in the fleet of sludge boats is well known to regular readers of this, your Newtown Pentacle. This is one of three brand new vessels, recently brought online, the Port Richmond. In the shot above, its doing what its designed to do, which is pass under the Pulaski Bridge without necessitating the draw bridge to open.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Port Richmond was coming from the Newtown Creek Waste Water Treatment Plant’s new dock facility along Newtown Creek’s Whale Creek tributary. It was likely headed for Wards Island, where the “honey” would be pumped out. Said “honey” will be centrifuged to remove as much water as possible, leaving behind sewage solids which have been described to me as having the consistency of wet polenta.

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not permitted

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A line in the sand, at the Sunnyside Yards, in today’s post.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Examinations of the plans elicited by the Mayor of New York City, a self professed “progressive” who has puzzlingly embraced the dream of Michael Bloomberg’s right hand man Dan Doctoroff to deck over the Sunnyside Yards, are disturbing. The scale of the project is frankly Federal in size, and the amount of debt which would be absorbed by the municipality in pursuit of it… conservative estimates would place the cost of the deck – just the deck – at around 200 billion dollars. That’s based on the $20 billion it’s costing to deck the relatively tiny 26.17 Hudson Yards. According to documents obtained from official sources, the Sunnyside Yards project would encompass some 200 acres. Do the math.

Remember, that number you just calculated is only for the deck.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The Sunnyside Yards are not connected to the City’s sewer grid. The Sunnyside Yards are not connected to the electrical, gas, or water delivery systems. The 11.2 thousand “affordable” apartments which the Mayor is using to sell this project are part of an 80/20 project. As City Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer recently stated, and as reported at sunnysidepost.com,

Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer told members of the Hunters Point Civic Association on Tuesday that 70,000 to 80,000 units might need to be built in order to attract developers to construct the affordable units.

“To get to the 11,200-odd…the number of units could be as high as 70,000 to 80,000 on Sunnyside Yards,” Van Bramer said, since developers typically require market rate apartments to offset the cost of constructing affordable units.

This would result in “a massive, massive development on the scale we have never seen before in western Queens that will affect Long Island City, Astoria, Sunnyside and Woodside,” he said.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The thing that no one seems to be discussing, however, is infrastructure. $200 billion would build you around 175 Kosciuszko Bridges. It could also build you around 20 sewer plants. What we’re not talking about are hospital beds, nor Police, Fire, Sanitation, School desks, and all the other municipal services that would accompany a build out of this scale. City Planning works off of a formula which speculates that the lifetime of any new residential building is 35 years. Does NYC have the budget to support the municipal services for this new population over the next 35 years, and shouldn’t we be calculating that as part of the cost of this project?

80,000 apartments would bring 150-200,000 new people into our community. The population of Albany, for instance is 98,424 (as of 2013).

Governor Andrew Cuomo has stated that he’s against the Mayor’s plan. That’s because Andrew Cuomo is from Queens. Talk to anyone in Queens, and they’ll agree with him. This plan is entirely about Manhattan, and the singular question which I’m continually asking is:

How, in any way, would this be good for Queens?

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very confines

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Over in DUGABO…

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Last Saturday, whilst wandering about in between snow storms, this outfall was spotted pouring into Newtown Creek. This is the terminus of Greenpoint Avenue alongside the Bridge, a lane which was coincidentally the path of an earlier Greenpoint Avenue Bridge – one that allowed rail to cross over from the LIRR tracks in Queens – which is today a fairly abandoned spot. The water is snow melt, incidentally.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s street drains all over the place which bear the screed “drains directly into waterways” and this is what it looks like when they do. The drain in question is actually visible, as is the melting snow pack which is feeding it. Along with the melt water, it’s carrying road salt and as well as all the litter and junk which line the curbs. The frustrating part of this scene is that the brand spanking new Newtown Creek Waste Water Treatment plant is just a block away and that this drain isn’t connected to it.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Amongst the many interesting people I’ve met along the Newtown Creek, some of them work for the so called “potentially responsible parties” named as being responsible for the cleanup in the Superfund agreement. Over and over, these folks have pointed out that the ongoing “point source” situation that these outfalls maintained by the City DEP present makes their court mandated mission a fools errand. You can remove the Black Mayonnaise, which is the colloquial term for the historic pollution that forms the sediment bed of the Creek, but without addressing the antiquated sewer system it won’t be twenty years before the Newtown Creek is again lined with toxic junk.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

March 3, 2015 at 11:00 am

sorry planet

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Something else that’s kind of odd.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Dutch Kills is currently a giant block of toxic ice, and I think the EPA is missing a big opportunity to just lift the water up and scrape away the black mayonnaise while the getting is good. That’s just a crazy idea, not the odd thing, however. This shot is looking south towards the estimable Long Island Expressway truss bridge over Dutch Kills, with the infinity of Brooklyn found just beyond the lugubrious Newtown Creek.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking in the opposite direction, towards the Dutch Kills turning basin and the Degnon Terminal. This is a familiar view, of course, and one of my favorite points of view along the entire Newtown Creek. As you can see, there was a fresh layer of snow recently deposited. That’s where the odd thing comes in.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Tracks were observed in the fresh snow, some of which were easy to classify. These were clearly left by a web footed bird, likely a Canada Goose due to their size and indication of gait. Also could have been a large gull. That’s still not the odd part.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

These tracks in the snow covering Dutch Kills, this is what was odd. Some of these repeating shapes can easily be chalked up to garbage rolling along the surface of the snow, driven about by the cold wind. As a fairly obvious note, I shot these differently than the photos at the top of the post, intentionally under exposing them and desaturating the color so as to capture the detail and render the textures of the snow.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

I can explain away most of these oddly mechanical looking impressions in the snow. That curving series of parallels – that’s a shoebox sized box. One cannot, however, reconcile the series of circular impressions. The circular impressions – that’s what was really odd. Also, it was odd that I was out at all as it was something like ten degrees Fahrenheit outside.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 26, 2015 at 11:00 am

afterward gave

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More photos from an ice choked Newtown Creek.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The scene, as witnessed in DUGABO – Down Under the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge Onramp, along Newtown Creek’s so called Marion Reach. Vast sheets of ice, carried by the languid tidal action of the Creek, headed towards the East River. These shots were captured during the brief warmup on Sunday last, and let me tell something that photos cannot convey – the smell was… even by Newtown Creek standards… incredible.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a combined sewer outfall on the Queens side, right where those ripples you see in the shot above are emanating from. With melt water feeding the system, it was releasing a month’s worth of frozen stink. The smell of raw sewage is unique, and has no odiferous analogue. Like the smell of death, you instantly recoil from it, and the best way to describe it is to compare it to the taste sensation enjoyed when licking a 9 volt battery’s contact leads.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

These piles are on the Brooklyn side, nearby the Metro bio fuel plant on Kingsland Avenue. Speaking of oil, I heard back from the NYS DEC about the flowing oil I reported and described in yesterday’s post nearby the Pulaski Bridge. They believe the material observed was actually creosote oil being released from the wooden “Dolphins” which protect the bridge from allision with maritime traffic.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Tugboat Ireland seems to have taken up a somewhat permanent residence on Newtown Creek, and was tied up at the Tidewater building. My understanding is that the former petroleum facility is now owned by the Broadway Stages company, and is being used for theatrical productions as an industrial set. Perhaps the Broadway Stages people bought Ireland as well? If so, that’s some expensive window dressing.

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intelligent response

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My beloved Creek, in today’s post.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Taking advantage of the positively balmy weather on Sunday, one soon found himself at the loquacious Newtown Creek. My beloved Creek was choked with ice floe, and the atmosphere was misty. All that ice in the ground was releasing moisture into the considerably warmer air, after all.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Icy times like this are excellent for being able to visualize the currents, and the underwater features that shape them, along my beloved Newtown Creek. One was content in his communion, happily snapping away at the feature rich environment, when something was noticed.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

A fairly substantial load of oil was moving along the water, heading towards the East River with what passes for the tide on my beloved Creek. These shots were captured from the Pulaski Bridge, btw, and the oil was traveling along the Brooklyn coastline. This was about 3:45 p.m.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The oil was fairly fresh stuff, with its vintage betrayed by the rainbow sheen that it was displaying. I’ve been lucky enough to receive a bit of training on discerning the different types and nature of petroleum spills over the years, and in accordance with that training – made a call to NYS DEC Spill response hotline at 1 (800) 457-7362 to report it.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

While clicking the shutter, a second phone call was made to my pal Laura Hoffman over in Greenpoint, a local activist and a Newtown Creek Alliance board member that lives nearby the Manhattan Avenue Street end. Laura captured a series of shots from that perspective and location, and called the DEC as well.

If you see something, say something.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 23, 2015 at 11:00 am

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