The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for the ‘DUGABO’ Category

irresistably borne

with 4 comments

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

mystery attacks

with one comment

Just a short one today.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recently, an excursion upon the fabled Newtwon Creek with the Anchor QEA folks (they’re the scientists studying the Creek for the Superfund process) and the Newtown Creek CAG Steering Committee (which I’m a member of) was cut short by threatening weather. Anchor has all sorts of frammistats onboard which warn them of the approach of lightning, and all the gizmos began to go off as a powerful thunderstorm was approaching. The shot above is from roughly 2.5 miles back from the East River, and depicts the DUGABO side of Brooklyn as the storm blew in. We made it back to dock, but not before the first curtain of rain and hail began to pummel the Creek.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

July 12th, 2015
Glittering Realms Walking Tour
with Newtown Creek Alliance, click here for details and tickets.

arduous details

with one comment

My beloved Creek, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned in an earlier post, I recently rode along with the EPA and DEP on a boat tour of my beloved Newtown Creek, and the shots in today’s post emanate from that trip. Pictured above is the scene from just west of the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge, at the verge of what I refer to as “The Newtown Creek Petroleum District.”

The trip was prevaricated by a meeting of the EPA’s CSTAG committee (Contaminated Sediments Taskforce Advisory Group, I think) wherein various players in the Superfund story made a presentation to a national level panel of experts regarding the handling of the “black mayonnaise” which bedevils the waterway.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Newtown Creek CAG (Community Advisory Group) presentation was offered by Will Elkins of Newtown Creek Alliance, and the so called “PRP’s” or “Potentially Responsible Parties” who have organized themselves under the nomen “Newtown Creek Group” also offered a presentation to the August panel. Oddly enough, it wasn’t the community nor potentially responsible party documents that sparked the most conversation – instead it was a series of claims and prepositions offered by the NYC DEP which roused a certain ire in those of us familiar with the Superfund story.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned ad infinitum on tours and at this – your Newtown Pentacle – NYC has a combined sewer system. During rain events, sanitary and storm water mix in the underground pipes and end up getting released into area waterways via outfall pipes which are referred to as “CSO’s” or “Combined Sewer Outfalls.” These CSO’s are all over the harbor, there’s better than 400 of them, but the 23 found at Newtown Creek are amongst the largest ones in the system and responsible for allowing millions of gallons of raw sewage a year to enter the water.

NYC DEP asserted that the solid materials transported by these combined sewers contribute nothing to the continuing growth of the poisonous sedimentation in Newtown Creek, and if they did, it wouldn’t be their fault as any solids were being transported from upland properties. The analogy is that I’m standing on a street corner and pulling the trigger on a pistol, over and over, but since somebody else loaded the bullets – it’s not my responsibility whom they strike. Something I can tell you, based on nearly ten years of dealing with DEP’s bureaucracy, is that DEP lies.

DEP lies to your face, and smirks while doing so. Their attitude is “what do you think you’re going to be able to do about it?”.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

June 7th, 2015
13 Steps Around Dutch Kills Walking Tour
with Newtown Creek Alliance, click here for details and tickets.

June 11th, 2015
MADE IN BROOKLYN Hidden Harbor Boat Tour
with Working Harbor Committee, click here for details and tickets.

June 13th, 2015
The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour
with Atlas Obscura, click here for details and tickets.

June 20th, 2015
Kill Van Kull Walking Tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, click here for details and tickets.

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 5, 2015 at 11:00 am

heavy boots

with 2 comments

Yeah, Happy Earth Day.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another Earth Day rolls around, wherein large numbers of happy little sophists will gather together in Manhattan Parks and congratulate themselves for separating their trash into “recycling” and “garbage” parcels. They will pat each other on the back, and claim that NYC is the “greenest” and most “resilient” of American cities. You won’t see any of them visiting LIC, or Greenpoint, Maspeth, or Bushwick, or Ridgewood. They won’t think about what happens after they flush their toilets, either.

Few, if any, will find themselves having arrived at the Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

They won’t see the black waters of Newtown Creek’s tributary Maspeth Creek, or smell the battery acid odor of raw sewage as it is entering the waterway. They won’t comment on the illegal dumping, or the true nature and environmental impact of the recycling industry. Greater good, they would say, were they to leave Manhattan.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Few will visit Dutch Kills at low tide, over in LIC. If they did, they would be forced to rationalize the rotten egg smell as being produced by anaerobic microbes. They wouldn’t puzzle over the neon colors of this tributary of Newtown Creek, whose mouth is .75 of a mile from the East River.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

They won’t wander through the borderlands of Brooklyn and Queens to Ridgewood, and witness what the recycling process actually looks and smells like. They won’t worry about what they are breathing either.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Manhattan people like to feel as if they’re doing something to help the environment, and will do so in front of television cameras. They will make a show of discussing the banning of plastic grocery bags, or demand that NYC begins to compost its organics. They won’t realize that this composting has to be done somewhere within throwing distance of their Borough, and that it will carried by truck to some central receiving facility where it will be collected and stored whilst awaiting processing. They don’t know that this area will be somewhere along the Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

They certainly won’t visit the tracks of the LIRR’s Bushwick Branch line, and see the hundreds of filled cargo boxes that compose the “garbage train.” They won’t care that the concentrating point of roughly 30-40% of NYC’s garbage is found on the corner of Varick Street and Johnson Avenue, nor about the thousands of trucks which descend upon it daily.

So – Happy Earth Day, from 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.

untold agony

with one comment

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

leave a comment »

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

very confines

leave a comment »

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.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

March 3, 2015 at 11:00 am

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,101 other followers

%d bloggers like this: