The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘DUGABO’ Category

of them

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I cannot understand why others do not find these things quite as thrilling as I do.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On one of my constitutionals, a humble narrator found himself at the veritable edge of Queens, heading in a  southerly direction through Blissville on my way to “the Pernt.” Hoary Greenpoint can be accessed from Queens via just a few easily defensible littoral spots, one of them being an eponymous path called “Greenpoint Avenue” and the bridge which is named for it.

It’s a double bascule draw bridge which spans my beloved Newtown Creek, and I refer to the area surrounding it in both Brooklyn and Queens as “DUGABO” which is short for “Down Under the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge Onramp.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Off in the distance to the east, another one of these Thermopylae like passages is visible, the Kosciuszko Bridge.

Should hostilities between Brooklyn and Queens ever break out, it is certain that their respective militaries will make every effort to take and control these passes. Ultimately, you’d want absolute command and control over Pulaski, Kosciuszko, and Greenpoint Avenue Bridges, although sentries and artillery units would no doubt be deployed all along the Newtown Creek to guard against an amphibious invasion. The crumbling bulkheads and industrial fence lines would no doubt make for a daunting landing, and the Queens faction would have a de facto advantage in the conflict due to their ability to deploy artillery on LIRR flatbed cars.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Brooklyn side would be devastated by the first wave of a rail based artillery attack, given the massive presence of oil storage tanks on the southern shoreline. The sewer plant would be an easily targeted site, but vast reserves of Kings County loyalist troops can be found to the South and could easily be brought to the front by the G line. I’m sure there would be a fierce battle in the G tunnel underneath the Vernon/Manhattan avenue area, fought by locally raised units. Lentol’s Leathernecks, and Nolan’s Raiders, would fortify on either side of the tube, with setups reminiscent of WW1 trenches. It wouldn’t be long before both sides resorted to the usage of wonder weapons like poison gas, supplies of which are easily attainable on either side of the fabled Newtown Creek.

Queens would likely attempt the use of the 7 line to ferry in reinforcement troops like Van Bramer’s Sunnyside Battalion and Dromm’s Sikh and Gurkha Jackson Heights Commandos and the terrifying forces of the Meng Men from Flushing and Elmhurst, while Brooklyn would likely use the L line to bring in Reynoso’s Roughnecks, Levin’s Loppers, and Reyna’s Reapers from points east and south. Further to the east – where the borders of Brooklyn and Queens are not aqueous but rather terrestrial in nature – Dilan’s Death Dealers, Liz Crowley’s Maquis Freedmen, and Joe Crowley’s Fenians (backed up on their flank by Grodenchik’s Garroters, Vallone’s Vanquishers, and Katz’s Killers) would all be engaged in a Stalingrad like guerrilla struggle over Maspeth, Ridgewood, and Fresh Pond.

Media attention on the conflict would be of course be focused on LIC and Greenpoint, since you could see that from Manhattan’s east side.

Irregular sappers, freelancers like the Gambinos and Latin Kings, would no doubt be utilized by both sides in this Blood War of the Boroughs.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Whilst musing about the idea of internecine and interborough warfare, I suddenly realized that traffic had stopped flowing on the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge. Worrying that the dark day had arrived at last when the border of Brooklyn and Queens would be marked by fire and death, it suddenly became apparent that the DOT was preparing to open the bridge to allow a maritime transit.

Whooopppeeee!!!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

To all of those stopped in traffic, it must have appeared odd, seeing some despoiled creature In a filthy black raincoat jumping up and down while squealing with joy and waving a camera around.

A minor inconvenience experienced by others is often a moment of joy for me. 

I got busy with the camera, and ran out onto the non movable part of the roadway, which is normally quite a chancey thing to do on the highly travelled span over Newtown Creek, as you’d get squished by a truck.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

God help me, but I just love watching a draw bridge at work. Also, check out those bike lanes. I encouraged a bicyclist to make a try for it, telling him he could easily jump the gap if he got enough headway speed. He ignored me and played with his phone instead.

Some people, I tell you, have no sense of adventure.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The apogee of the bridge roadway’s open posture was attained shortly, and it rose in monolithic fashion. This is likely the position that the Bridge would be fixed into should hostilities between Brooklyn and Queens break out, which is offered as a strategic and or tactical note to the future combatants.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In my incessant research of all things Newtown Creek, an eventuality in which the Creek would have become militarized was actually set down by the War Department of the United States, during the World Wars period of the early 20th century.

Naval Destroyers (sometimes the presence of a battleship is discussed as well) were set to be stationed along the Newtown Creek (as well as the East and Hudson rivers) and its tributaries to defend the Petroleum and Industrial bases along its shorelines from air or naval attack. The anticipated pathway which a German invasion fleet would have followed involved a passage through Jamaica Bay and the Narrows in pursuance of invading Manhattan at the Battery and Brooklyn via Bay Ridge. The naval guns on Newtown Creek would have been trained on the Narrows, shooting artillery in a parabola over all of Brooklyn and bombarding enemy vessels on the waterway. The defensive plan was to create a “death zone” between and supported by Forts Totten (Staten Island) and Hamilton (Bay Ridge). Governors Island was also meant to play a role in the deployment of long range defenses and weaponry.

I know, sounds silly to we children of the atom, but this was an actual military plan. It’s part of the reason why the Kosciuszko and Long Island Expressway over Dutch Kills were built as high as they are, to allow the smoke stacks of ocean going Naval Ships purchase. The East River Bridge heights were also built with the Brooklyn Navy Yard and the presence of Capital Ships in NY Harbor during times of war in mind. It’s one of those “alt history” scenarios which leads to a fascinating thought experiment – a Kriegsmarine and Wehrmacht invasion of New York Harbor (their ACTUAL plans, btw, would have included the setup of a German base of operations at Sandy Hook). Just to reiterate – the Germans were ACTUALLY and ACTIVELY planning for this.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Of course, an invasion of the United States would have been contingent on the Germans not being involved in two major European land conflicts simultaneously, and Germany being at peace with the UK and the Royal Navy. The invasion of NY Harbor would have represented about a third of the German assault, with other units landing at Cape Cod in Massachussets and in Virginia. A simultaneous landing of troops from the Japanese Empire would have occurred in Seattle and in San Diego.

Lost in my alt history thoughts, I suddenly realized that I didn’t know which vessel the bridge had opened for, and a quick dog trot to the fences of the eastern side of the bridge was enacted.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Mary H tug was towing a fuel barge, no doubt headed some three and change miles back from the East River to the Bayside Fuel depot found nearby another one of the flash points in a Borough on Borough war – the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge. Both Grand Street and Metropolitan Avenue Bridges span narrow passes on the Creek, where small arms fire and snipers would be easily able to command and control access between the two warring sides.

What would be the cause of a war between the two boroughs? Good question, lords and ladies.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My bet is that it would be a trade dispute, with Brooklyn enacting a restrictive tariff on all things artisinal and organic.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

gently heaving

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Tis the Season.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recently, one found himself headed towards DUGABO in Greenpoint for a Newtown Creek Alliance event. My intentions were merely to photograph and record the occasion, but as a humble narrator is cursed with the attention span of a house fly, I soon became distracted by a calvalcade of death.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Mysteriously, an abandoned DSNY property in the area is littered with animal bones. It is actually difficult to trespass on the property without crunching the most intimate of internal organs beneath your booted foot.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A good number of these ossuarial remains are cut, in the manner which a butcher might employ. All are sun bleached, and whereas the vast majority are definitely avian in character, the higher animals are clearly represented as well.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Of interest is the fact that you mostly find limb bones, with nary a skull nor pelvis apparent.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Oddly, a floppy disc was observed at the site. Once ubiquitous, this sort of device has been obsolete for a generation, and it is odd to spot one. Who can know what information it might have once held?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There are fresher remains to be found all over DUGABO, this ex rat was spotted on the Queens side of DUGABO whilst one was in transit to Brooklyn. Truly, DUGABO seems “death magnetic.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The views from this dead end, as is the case all over my beloved Creek, are spectacular.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 27, 2015 at 3:10 pm

viewless aura

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Blissville, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Blissville, for those of you not in the know, is the section of Long Island City which the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge connects to. One refers to this area as DUGABO – Down Under the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge Onramp – as I like to stay ahead of the Real Estate Guys on this sort of thing. DUGABO is an M1 zone, meaning that it is zoned for heavy industry. A couple of blocks to the north, it becomes a “mixed use” zone, and there’s a scattered series of homes and commercial storefronts in the area – a lot of the building stock actually dates back to the 19th century.

The LIRR trackways run along the coast of Newtown Creek, and you’ll find several bits of railroad infrastructure along the shoreline. In focus today, the Blissville Yard, which has found new occupation.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Blissville Yard is a series of trackways designed for storage of rolling stock. It connects to the Hunters Point tracks via a rail bridge that crosses Dutch Kills, and there used to be a connection to the Sunnyside Yards and the Degnon terminal railway spurs via the Montauk Cutoff which is no longer an active track. The modern use of the Blissville Yard is governed by the New York and Atlantic company, which is a private corporation that handles freight services for the Long Island Railroad. If you see a black and emerald colored engine operating along the LIRR tracks, that’s them.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Not too long ago, the Waste Management company, which enjoys a profitable relationship with NYC’s Department of Sanitation, opened a new facility on the Queens side of the Newtown Creek. Waste Management handles the exit from our municipality of the putrescent or “black bag” garbage collected by the municipal DSNY. The company has been operating for several years out of an enormous facility on Varick Street in what should be called Bushwick, but is referred to in modernity as East Williamsburg.

At Varick Street, Waste Management and New York and Atlantic operate the so called “garbage train” along the Bushwick Branch of the LIRR. Now, in Queens, they are operating another garbage train out of the Blissville Yard and the newish Review Avenue Waste Transfer Station – which is across the street from Calvary Cemetery. Those green box cars in the shot above?

That’s the Garbage Train.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

DUGABO proper, the street where you’ll find the at grade crossings for the garbage train is appropriately called Railroad Avenue. To the west, you’ll find the Blissville Yard and the SimsMetal company. SimsMetal handles the recyclable materials collected by DSNY and others. To the east, you’ll find other new arrivals (new as in the last decade, which isn’t even yesterday to “historian me”) like Waste Managements “Green Asphalt” facility.

This little roadway alongside the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge has become a locus point for heavy trucks, literally thousands of heavy trucks loaded down with garbage, on a daily basis.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The putrescent waste is processed at Waste Management, and loaded into these green boxes, which are then positioned onto rail cars. The garbage train(s) proceed eastward to the Fresh Pond yard. From Fresh Pond, they begin a long and circuitous journey which sees them leave Long Island via the Hell Gate Bridge and head north through the the Bronx via the Owls Head yard. Leaving NYC, they head most of the way to Albany, where another rail bridge allows them to cross the Hudson and enter the continent. Where they go after that seems to be a state secret, although I’ve been told that there are a series of tapped out coal mines in Pennsylvania and West Virginia which are gradually being filled back up.

Future archaeologists are going to love us, I tell you.

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horrors and marvels

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My beloved Creek, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pictured above, Newtown Creek.

This is a section I refer to as DUGABO, or Down Under the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge Onramp. On the left side of the shot is the Allocco family’s aggregates recycling yard in Greenpoint, on the right is the SimsMetal recycling facility in Long Island City’s Blissville section. Today’s post will be taking us eastwards from DUGABO into oil country.

Technically speaking – all of the Brooklyn side of the Newtown Creek, from the Pulaski Bridge east to Meeker Avenue was once oil country, home to a series of Standard Oil (SOCONY) refineries and distribution facilities. The industry’s footprint in the area began to shrink as early as the 1950’s, and refining on the Creek literally stopped in the middle 1960’s.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Literally “DUGABO,” the Greenpoint side on the left shows the tanks of Metro Fuel, a bio fuel company which actually performs some refinery operations in the modern day. On the Queens side, you’ll notice the Tidewater building. Tidewater was a pipeline company that challenged Standard Oil’s monopoly on shipping petroleum using the railroads. Tidewater was destroyed and taken over by Standard. The Standard Oil company then bankrupted the railroads by switching its nationwide distribution system over to pipelines rather than rail cars – despite having spent a couple of decades trying to convince Congress and everyone else that pipelines were inherently unsafe and uneconomical to operate.

You’ve really got to love John D. Rockefeller.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A bit further east, you’ll notice the tanks of the BP Amoco yard nearby Apollo Street in Greenpoint, which sit on part of the footprint of the Locust Hill refinery.

This is roughly the dead bang center of the Greenpoint Oil Spill, the second largest such event in American History. The BP Amoco yard is a distribution hub, with its product brought in from refineries in New Jersey and beyond by articulated Tug and fuel barge combinations like the Crystal Cutler, which is pictured above. The digester eggs of the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant are visible in the shot above as well, as is Manhattan’s iconic Empire State Building.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A bit further back, that’s Meeker Avenue’s street end on the left or Brooklyn side, and Blissville’s Calvary Cemetery is just out of frame on the right. The former site of Penny Bridge, which looms large in the memory of long time residents of both boroughs, would have been right about the center of the Newtown Creek. Penny Bridge, of course, was replaced in 1939 by Robert Moses. Moses had to work around some pretty big land owners when building it.

On the right hand – or Queens side of the photo – that brick building is part of the former Queens County Oil Works of Standard Oil. The Petroleum facility in Blissville is actually a bit older than Standard, believe it or not. That’s where Abraham Gesner erected the first large scale petroleum refinery in the United States, the North American Kerosene Gas Light company, which imparted to “coal oil” the brand name Kerosene.

When Standard Oil bought Gesner’s operation, the company made the brand name “Kerosene” so ubiquitous that it became an American colloquialism, and it defined the product in the same way that Xerox or Kleenex define photocopies or facial tissue.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

September 20th, 2015
Glittering Realms Walking Tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, click here for details and tickets

gorgeous concealment

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My beloved Creek, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last Thursday, the Open House New York organization organized two boat tours of Newtown Creek. Back to back, there was one that embarked at 5 and one at 7, and the two tours were sold out. Open House NY asked Newtown Creek Alliance to participate on the tours, and your humble narrator as well as our Project Manager Will Elkins were onboard and on the microphone. Pictured above, the Donjon Towing vessel Brian Nicholas manipulating a series of barges at the City of New York’s Newtown Creek dock, which is occupied by the SimsMetal corporation.

Tom Schadt, who is the Project Manager for the Newtown Creek Group at the Newtown Creek Superfund Site, also participated, and everybody’s friends at the NYC DEP sent along engineer Frank Loncar. Tom Schadt discussed the environmental science his company, Anchor QEA, is conducting for the Superfund “Scoping Period” and Fran Loncar talked about the NCWWTP and DEP’s efforts at ameliorating the effects of the Combined Sewer system that the DEP inherited from the agencies which preceded it (the Bureau of Sewers of Brooklyn and Queens as well as other historical Municpal entities). Will Elkins of Newtown Creek Alliance discussed some of the shoreline restoration and environmental projects NCA has underway.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As is my habit on boat tours of the Creek, once my section of the narration was accomplished – which is a historical overview and accounting of the various issues affecting the waterway – I handed the mike over to the other speakers and raced down to the bow of the boat to get some photos. The shots in today’s post were gathered at the end of the second tour, which was – quite obviously – well after the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself had ducked behind that western horizon offered by the shield wall of Manhattan.

Pictured above, the aggregates recycling yard of the Allocco family, with the DEP’s Newtown Wastewater Treatment Plant’s digester eggs in the background.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Further east on the Newtown Creek, that’s Blissville in Queens on the right, and the petroleum district of Greenpoint on the left. The fuel tanks are the BP Amoco yard on Norman Avenue, right around Apollo Street. That’s the former boundary between the Sone and Fleming and Locust Hill refineries of the Standard Oil company and was once the home of the Standard Oil Company of New York – better known to modernity as Mobil Oil.

It’s also the epicenter of the Greenpoint Oil spill, which is actually a completely separate “thing” from the Superfund designation which the rest of the Newtown Creek enjoys.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Futuristic, the National Grid corporation’s Liquified Natural Gas tanks are found even further east, all the way back at the border of Bushwick near Varick Avenue and Lombardy Street. All of the shots in today’s post were captured while onboard the OHNY boat, and are handheld. Can’t tell you how much I wish it was possible to use a tripod for these kind of shots, but camera support is actually fairly useless when the platform you’re standing on is moving at around five knots. You have no other choice than to open the lens up as far as you can, and jack the ISO up as high as possible, as you still have to use a relatively quick shutter speed to avoid motion blur.

It was exceptionally dark, but that’s Newtown Creek for you.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

September 13th, 2015
Poison Cauldron Walking Tour
with Newtown Creek Alliance, click here for details and tickets

September 20th, 2015
Glittering Realms Walking Tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, click here for details and tickets

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 8, 2015 at 11:00 am

sepulchral adorations

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Tour announcements, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On August 22nd, your humble narrator will be offering a walking tour of First Calvary Cemetery in LIC’s Blissville neighborhood. First Calvary was founded in 1848 by the Roman Catholic Church and is one of the most amazing spots to experience in the Borough of Queens. It sits alongside the Newtown Creek, and is hemmed in by automotive expressways.

The walking tour will meet up at the corners of Greenpoint and Review Avenues at 11 a.m. on Saturday, August 22nd and will be two hours long (give or take).

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The narrated walk will play out over several shallow grassy hills. If mobility is a issue for you, this might not be the tour for you, accordingly. We will enter the cemetery on the Newtown Creek side, and exit on Greenpoint Avenue nearby the Bantry Bay Public House and the Long Island Expressway.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the path through First Calvary Cemetery, several noteworthy New Yorkers who are interred there will be discussed, and amongst other attractions we will visit a theoretically unique place on the Earth – the colonial era Alsop Cemetery, which is a Protestant burying ground entirely enclosed within a Roman Catholic cemetery.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Calvary hosts multiple valleys of mausolea which are amongst the finest examples of Victorian era funerary architecture found in NYC, and certainly so in Queens. Closed toe shoes are highly recommended, as is a hat or parasol to shield you from the late August sun. Dressing appropriately for late summer weather goes without saying. Bring your camera, as this landscape is spectacular, and a visual feast.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Commanding views of the NYS DOT’s Kosciuszko Bridge reconstruction project will also be experienced.

Additionally, my pal from Newtown Creek Alliance – Will Elkins – and I, will be narrating on two Newtown Creek Boat tours on September 3rd for the Open House NY organization. Ticketing links for both excursions are found below.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

August 22nd, 2015
First Calvary Cemetery – LIC, Queens Walking Tour
click here for details and tickets.

September 3rd, 2015
Newtown Creek Boat Tour
with Open House NY, click here for details and tickets.

irresistably borne

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Spock was wrong, for the needs of the few outweigh the needs of the many.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Allow a humble narrator to make this predicate statement, before the condemnations begin: I think Bike Lanes are both necessary and a good thing. I have no fundamental nor ideological objection to dedicated vehicle lanes reserved for human powered transportation. Friends of mine actually sit on the board of Transportation Alternatives, and although I’m not a bicycle commuter (dedicated pedestrian, me), it’s a worthy pursuit to encourage folks to get around under their own steam rather than use a motor vehicle. Saying that, there’s a lot of people who cannot get around under their own steam because… y’know, not everybody is 25 and in perfect health.

A set of bike lanes has recently appeared on the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge, which spans the currently undefended border of Brooklyn and Queens and the lugubrious waters of the fabled Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

When these bike lanes opened, websites like Gothamist, Curbed, and the rest of the Brooklyn Gold Coast elites applauded the addition. The bike lanes were a personal project for some of the elected officials who I am honored to consider friends on both sides of the Creek as well. These are what is known as “protected bike lanes,” meaning that they have these little plastic bollards running along them.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Problem here is that mid span on the bridge, which is a primary crossing between the two boroughs, the two motor vehicle lanes that cross the span on both sides now merge into a single lane. The day these shots were captured, I observed three near misses as automobiles were trying to pass heavy trucks (manufacturing zoning on both sides). 

The other problem is that while there are a fair number of people who bike over this bridge on a daily basis, their numbers are eclipsed by the cyclopean numbers of trucks and cars that do so as well.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Several instances of southbound traffic straying into the northbound lanes were observed, and vice versa, and more than one of the heavy trucks had to jam on their air brakes to stop in time to avoid a collision. The problem, as observed, is that there are protected bike lanes for both directions of travel instead of a single dedicated path for bicycle traffic, which necessitates the 4 automotive lanes becoming two at mid span.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pictured above, you’ll notice the white auto is forcing the dump truck onto the median “no go” area as traffic merges near the center of the span.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the Queens side, the north bound bike lane terminates at a cross walk and then disappears. Just to the east of the bridge’s bike lane is an access road used by the trucks that are exiting from the recycling and waste haulage companies found along Railroad Avenue.

This is a high volume sort of intersection, btw, where Review and Greenpoint Avenues intersect with Van Dam Street and traffic is literally coming at you from six different directions.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking up Van Dam in the general direction of Queens Plaza, the bike lane is intersected by a turn lane for trucks and other vehicular traffic. The Fed Ex truck is in that turn lane and making the left onto Review Avenue, no doubt heading for the enormous Fed Ex facility on Borden Avenue under the Long Island Expressway.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Here’s a shot of the intersection which is clear of traffic, where the confusing and rather byzantine striping of the traffic indicators is fully revealed. This looks pretty dangerous to me. Notice that the turn lane used by the Fed Ex truck in the previous spot goes right through the bike lane which feeds the south bound lane of the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Funny thing is, despite all the work and expense of installing these bike lanes, and the series of vehicular hazards introduced to automotive and truck traffic by that center span merge – the bicyclists still seem to prefer using the pedestrian sidewalks – just as they’ve always done.

So, now is the time for the bike people to start attacking me for pointing out that these bike lanes are imperfect and dangerous. Recriminations will include accusations of Fox News style distortion, fealty to a regressive authoritarian system dominated by motor vehicles, and the other usual character assassinations favored by the scholastic and socratic elites who occupy air conditioned offices in lower Manhattan and Downtown Brooklyn.

Hold your sophistry, the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge needs bike lanes, but these ain’t good. We need to do better. I’m talking to you, NYC DOT.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

August 2nd, 2015
The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek – Bushwick & Mapeth Walking Tour
with Newtown Creek Alliance, click here for details and tickets.

August 8th, 2015
13 Steps Around Dutch Kills – LIC Walking Tour
with Atlas Obscura, click here for details and tickets

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 29, 2015 at 10:45 am

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