The Newtown Pentacle

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second to nothing

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Dredging operations on the Newtown Creek are underway.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

After a couple of false starts and delayed beginnings, DonJon Towing is finally getting busy over on my beloved Creek. The dredging project is designed to provide a maritime channel for a new class of DEP Sludge Boats (see this Newtown Pentacle post from back in January of this year for details on the new boats) which will use a dock on Whale Creek, rather than the current East river facility, to accept the processed material produced by the Newtown Creek Waste Water Treatment Plant in Greenpoint.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

These shots were gathered yesterday, at Whale Creek – a Brooklyn side tributary of Newtown Creek which the sewer plant wraps around.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Unfortunately, due to a busy work schedule and weather issues, I only managed to get there late in the afternoon and missed the action. This little push boat was busily managing the barges into a docking position, however.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The dredging rig was the Delaware Bay, which is a 225 foot long monster commissioned in 2008, and outfitted with a 123 foot long boom and crane.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the actual dredging bucket, which is outfitted with some sort of esoteric gasket system. I’ve never felt pity for a big steel machine before, but… Yuck… this is Newtown Creek.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The whole operation is meant to continue on for about six weeks. The initial phase of it, here on Whale Creek, will only be operating 12 hours a day, but once they work their way out onto the main body of the Creek – probably Tuesday of next week, they will go 24/7.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

This little Survey boat was buzzing about, and I’m told it carried a battery of sonar equipment which allowed visualization of the dredging work in real time. There’s a lot of stuff down there, pipelines and cables and such, for the DonJon crews to watch out for.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

A DEP contractor was on hand performing air quality tests and odor control functions. This was his little weather station.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Also part of this contractors kit was a Hydrogen Sulfide monitor, which measures concentrations of the compound released from the underwater sediments during the dredge process.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s critical, once the operation moves out of Whale Creek and heads west towards the more populated sections of the Creek in Greenpoint and Hunters Point, that you call 311 if you’re being affected by smells or noise. Also, I’ve been told that the NCWWTP Nature Walk will be closed for the weekend, in the name of safety.

If you smell something, say something, and call 311.

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stupendous spectacle

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If you smell something, say something.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

In January, the new DEP Sludge Boat Hunts Point was described in this Newtown pentacle posting.

The boat’s arrival was the first part of a complicated story, and the next chapter will involve some heavy equipment arriving on the Newtown Creek in around two weeks time. According to official sources, an oft rescheduled interval of municipal dredging will begin the week of March 17th, with the intention of opening a navigational channel for the new sludge boats from the East River, all the way back to Whale Creek at the sewer plant.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Concerns about odor and disposition of the materials removed from Newtown Creek have been largely dismissed by the mid level DEP personnel running the operation, although community groups like the Newtown Creek Monitoring Committee (this is one of the ones I’m “with”) have asked pointed questions and demanded that odor control procedures be put in place. The municipal contractor will be DonJon towing, and they will be equipped with some sort of foam based system to cover the Black Mayonnaise sediment when it’s deposited in a barge – should it begin to afflict the residential properties on either side of the Creek with a smell or odor issue.

DEP will be releasing a document next week, for “community outreach,” as it were. The word from on high is that 311 is primed to deal with odor complaints – so if you live in LIC or Greenpoint – If you smell something, say something and call 311 to complain. 

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Disturbingly, our commonly held employees at DEP do not wish to detail what will happen to the materials removed from the waterway. There was some discussion about the different end destinations for it – they considered several industrial facilities practiced in the handling and disposal of toxic sludge – but there has been stony silence in response to queries about the details of the plan.

How will the material be handled, upon Newtown Creek and beyond? Will it receive primary treatment in Greenpoint or in Queens or somewhere else? If it’s going to be along the Creek that the DonJon barges are emptied and cleaned, where will that happen? How will the material be transported out of the area – by truck, barge, or rail?

Our employees in municipal government have let us know that it’s really none of our business.

This is an important issue, as when EPA begins its dredging operation for the Superfund cleanup, they will likely look at the process which DEP created for this far smaller dredging effort. More to come on this one, Lords and Ladies.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

March 6, 2014 at 12:33 pm

literal resurrection

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Old habits die hard, I guess.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

There are certain shots which I can never resist, and amongst these are the easterly and westerly views from the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge. Pictured is the former Van Iderstine property, in Queens, alongside that malign reminder of generational neglect known as the Newtown Creek. Van Iderstine has been discussed previously, in the posting “virgin aether,” if you’re curious.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The former Tidewater property, which has also been discussed in a prior posting “central chamber,” and… wait a second… something has changed. Something odd and atavist has been added to a scene both familiar and loved

- photo by Mitch Waxman

I will confess that I was tipped off to this Standard Oil signage being installed on the Tidewater building a couple of days before these shots were taken (thanks, T. Willis) – but – what’s happening on Newtown Creek? Does anybody know? Fill a humble narrator in.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 10, 2014 at 7:30 am

elder world

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Another archive shot, one of my faves.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the New York Paving Company down there, in DUGABO (Down Under the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge Onramp), in Blissville, Queens. The Newtown Creek, loquaciously, lurks in its ancient bed of silt and clay as it has always been wont to do.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 1, 2014 at 7:30 am

prosaic materialism

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All believe themselves to be saints, not sinners.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Dia de Los Muertos, Áraw ng mga Patáy, the second day of Samhain, or just plain old All Saints Day- here we are again on the track towards the dark and cold wastes of winter. Given a humble narrators abiding interest in the Newtown Creek and its surrounding communities, its only natural for me to think about those who passed through its coils over the centuries. Will you raise a glass to the saints of local industry- Charles Pratt, John D. Rockefeller, The Van Iderstine family, or Ambrose Kingsland- tonight?

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Something that I’ve been attempting to reconcile for awhile now is the role of these historical figures in the development and despoiling of the Newtown Creek. Hurricane Sandy showed us what it would be like to live in New York City without a functioning energy sector, and it forced me to reconsider these characters beyond the popular narratives of modernity. From an environmentalist point of view, these are loathsome individuals whose crimes against the earth are countless, and their bones should be scattered in the same way that Marius did to Sulla’s. From an economic point of view, the relict grandeur of early 20th century Greenpoint and Long Island City existed solely because of the energy sector, which provided hundreds of thousands of jobs over the course of a century and “lifted the raft” for the entire community.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s so complicated. This tale of industrialists and robber barons, which is one of the central dichotomies of the American mythology with its narrative of progress. At least they did something with the place which was productive, that generated wealth- is how most of the MBAs would see it. Today, most of these MBA types look to Newtown Creek as a place to throw objectionable materials away, whether it be garbage or sewage. Does modernity have the right to judge the past? Can we understand the “on the ground” circumstances that they were working with back in the 19th century? What have we done, to “lift the raft”?

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Written by Mitch Waxman

November 1, 2013 at 10:55 am

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