The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for the ‘DUKBO’ Category

gleam and grin

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Checking in on that little bit of construction occurring down in DUKBO.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Kosciuszko Bridge replacement project is in full swing these days, and there’s a small army of optic orange clad construction workers at work in that shallow valley between Laurel and Berlin Hills which has always provided a border betwixt LIC’s Blissville and West Maspeth’s Berlin neighborhoods. The old blue gray mare was built by the “House of Moses” back in 1939 as the “New Meeker Avenue Bridge,” carries the Brooklyn Queens Expressway over Newtown Creek, and is considered as being dangerously deficient from the structural integrity and the traffic engineering points of view – so the NYS DOT is overseeing the implementation of its replacement.

Nobody else seems to be paying any mind to this mega project, but a humble narrator is not at all like anybody else.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

These shots are all from the Queens side of the project, which will see the new bridge rise nearly one city block to the east of the 1939 model’s footprint. One has begun to refer to the street it will adjoin as “used to be 43rd street.” The shot above was captured on Laurel Hill Blvd., and depicts one of the many elevated piers which will carry the BQE towards its intersection with the Long Island Expressway.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Closer to “used to be 43rd street” you’ll notice that the NYS DOT engineers have had the orange clad fellows jamming big bits of steel deep into Queens. The substrate which the bridge(s) sit upon is the elluvial flood plain of Newtown Creek – which is basically a giant agglutination of mud and aggregate. The piles need to be sunk down around one hundred and eight feet to meet bedrock, with the anchoring mechanisms for the piers going far deeper – from 160-180 feet depending on location.

Who can guess all there is, that might be buried down there?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

An unoccluded view of the metal bits, which are marked off with gauge measurement indications. This is the corner of “used to be 43rd street” and 54th avenue, for the curious.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Same corner, but looking to the south rather than the antipode displayed in the former shot.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Skanska crews working on the site, who are the aforementioned “fellows dressed in orange,” have a disturbing habit of leaving their fences open – given the fact that the BQE continues to run along the span offered by the 1939 model Kosciuszko Bridge.

No big “whup” of course, as this section of the highway has never really been “secure” in any real manner and has been a target for graffiti and illegal dumping enthusiasts for multiple generations.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The project continues along Laurel Hill Blvd. and includes the Kosciuszko Bridge approaches. The Meeker Avenue side of the approaches, which roll through Greenpoint and Williamsburg, have been receiving quite a bit of attention from the fellows in orange in recent months. The work on the Queens side is just getting started, in comparison.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Phase One of the project will see the eastern half of the new bridge erected, followed by the dismantling of the 1939 era Kosciuszko Bridge. Traffic on the BQE will be rerouted onto the new span, and the construction on Phase Two will see the western section of the new bridge erected – whereupon traffic patterns on the BQE will be given their new and permanent form – with the eastern “Phase One” section carrying the South to North (Brooklyn to Queens) flow and the western “Phase Two” section allowing North to South (Queens to Brooklyn) traffic.

The good news is that Phase Two will include a pedestrian and bicycle path, which will overlook my beloved Newtown Creek.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

September 3rd, 2015
Newtown Creek Boat Tour
with Open House NY, 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

August 26, 2015 at 1:33 pm

haunted steep

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At the Maspeth Plank Road, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the same morning walk described yesterday, wherein one was heading over to East Williamsburg from Astoria to conduct a walking tour of My Beloved Creek, I found myself at the Maspeth Plank Road.

Whenever possible, an attempt to scout the day’s intended route is enacted, to ensure against any of the little surprises which are known to pop up in the neighborhoods surrounding Newtown Creek. Bridge closures, road work, chemical spills – you know, the usual.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I ran into this family of Canada Geese, whom I’ve been noticing all over the Creek for the last few weeks.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Not too much I can tell you about this specie, other than that like swans – you don’t want to get too close to them. Geese can be mean tempered and vast physical cowardice notwithstanding, who wants to get pecked?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The gaggle seemed to take some umbrage at their unwanted portraiture, it seemed, and they headed back to the loathsome ripples of that cataract of urban neglect known as the Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My decision to scout the route was actually quite fortuitous, as the Grand Street Bridge was closed. The NYC DOT was conducting some sort of repair job here, something about fixing the deck plating on the pedestrian walkways so that it could accommodate bicycle traffic. This, of course, directs vehicular flow onto the sidewalks and directly into the path of pedestrians, but priorities are priorities for City Hall.

NYC MUST REPLACE ALL SURFACE ROADS AND PEDESTRIAN PATHS WITH BIKE LANES, AT ALL COST, INCLUDING SACRIFICE AND TORTURE.

Also, AFFORDABLE HOUSING.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

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

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 26, 2015 at 11:00 am

mixed anger

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Detestation of convention, polity, and custom

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has mentioned the amazing sense of finality felt when encountering the soon to be absent Kosciuscko Bridge before. This bridge is significant, and its replacement more so, as its opening in 1939 signalled the beginning of the era of Robert Moses in NYC, and the replacement of this first link in his chain of intracity highway projects that would become the Brooklyn Queens Expressway means that Moses is finally gone.

Don’t mention that to our current Mayor, of course, whose grandiose plans for “affordable housing” are essentially the “urban renewal” projects of our modern age. For those of you not in the know on that term, “Urban Renewal” was the blanket term used by Mr. Moses and his cohorts for destroying existing neighborhoods and replacing them with federally funded housing projects.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A creature such as myself loathes the souless nature of the “towers in the park” concept promulgated by the French Crypto Fascist LeCorbusier and his mid century devotees, like Robert Moses. It is my belief that many of the underlying societal forces which drove and continue to drive crime in public housing emanates from the depersonalization and alienation from the surrounding neighborhoods which is engendered by life in the “houses.” Urban Renewal era projects like Stuyvesant Town or the Ravenswood or Cooper houses destroy the street grid and eliminate the sense of ownership residents of traditional blocks feel for their corner or block. Jane Jacobs was entirely correct about this.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The bridge replacement is entirely necessary, of course, as the old gray truss bridge over my beloved Creek is in a sorry state. One wonders what unexpected consequence the new span will bring us – will the corrected patterns of “flow” for automobile traffic do to the southern extents of Sunnyside or northern edges or Greenpoint?

Only time will tell, I guess. When the Queensboro or Alfred E. Smith housing projects went up they were meant to stem a wave of crime and youth violence thought to be caused by life in dilapidated tenements. Within twenty years of their construction, both of these projects ending up becoming bigger problems than those which they sought to solve, and the slum conditions which they sought to clear had expanded and intensified around these projects to encompass entire regions of the greater City.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It is truly astounding, seeing that none of the lessons of the 20th century seem to be part of our current Mayor’s agenda. There is a dearth of affordable housing in NYC, you just cant get there and back again from Manhattan easily as this building stock is found in central areas of Brooklyn and Queens which are only accessible by the automobile – thanks to Mr. Moses.

If we have the municipal bucks to even consider decking the Sunnyside Yards, why not think in truly grand terms and extend or create new Subway lines for the first time in nearly a century. If you build it, the forces of the capitalist market will take care of all the housing you need. Building Soviet style blocks in the LeCorbusier style will only magnify the problems of NYC’s most vulnerable classes, not solve them. Then again, maybe thats what the Bureaucrats want – job security.

“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 16, 2015 –
13 Steps Around Dutch Kills with Atlas Obscura

with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman, click here for details and tickets.

May 31, 2015 –
Newtown Creek Boat Tour
with Working Harbor Committee and Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman, click here for tickets.

heavy boots

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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.

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

typical denizen

with one comment

Beneath the sodium light of a salty moon.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Today, in 1881, the bleeding heart Russian author Dostoyevsky died from a triad of pulmonary hemorrhages. In 1913, a mysterious series of fireballs streaked across a 7,000 mile long patch of the night sky, which scientific opinion described as the break up of a previously unobserved natural Earth satellite – a tiny moon. It’s also Ash Monday, aka “Clean Monday,” which kicks off the liturgical calendar for Easter in certain variants of Christianity. Queensicans rejoice on February 9th, for on this day in 1956 – Mookie Wilson entered this world.

For me, it’s just Monday. I hate Mondays.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Whenever it has been possible, as the weather has been decidedly antibiotic, one has engaged in the usual pursuit of hidden knowledge around the dustier sections of North Brooklyn and Western Queens. Most of the aforementioned objects of my interest have been a bit better hidden than usual, given the blanket of snow and ice which occludes the pavement. Luckily, the Real Estate Industrial Complex is at work in Greenpoint converting the toxic East River shoreline of that ancient village into a residential zone. A protective wall of condominiums will rise, ones so stout that they can protect neighborhood streets from fire and flood alike.

A few of them will be residential transformers, I imagine, able to turn into giant robots who will defend Greenpoint and Stuyvesant town against an attack. They will be known as CondoBots. That earth mover you see in the shot above? Yep, that’s a small one, and it calls itself Payloader.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The latest bit of hidden knowledge I’m working on, incidentally, is figuring out where all the hidden or filled in tributaries of Newtown Creek are or were. One branch of Maspeth Creek used to terminate at the locus of 58’s – avenue, street, road – nearby the Clinton or Goodfellas Diner. Under the Kosciuszko Bridge, on the Queens side, there was a largish tributary that flowed south out of the heights of Sunnyside, and ran between Laurel and Berlin Hills on its path to Newtown Creek. It’s “map work” and since I have zero budget for acquiring facsimiles of historical plottings, quite difficult and slow going. Headway has been made, however, and all will be revealed soon enough.

It’s all so depressing, really. Look at what happened to Dostoyevsky, who died of a bleeding heart.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

February 9, 2015 at 11:00 am

nearly total

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Humbug.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Everyone’s got a cool ride, it seems. Your humble narrator would particularly like a somewhat militarized version of the DSNY Earth Mover pictured above. Mine would be painted black, with an illustration of a dragon riding sword chick (wearing boob armor like Red Sonja, natch) dueling with a witch in front of an impossibly large full moon on the scoop. A less dated motif for my earth mover would be to entirely cover it in googly eyes that jiggled about as I drove around and… y’know… moved earth.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This goldenrod VW micro bus hasn’t moved from this spot on 43rd street in Maspeth for at least a couple of months now, and I’m beginning to suspect a Dr. Who sort of thing might be going on. Is this Volkswagen bigger on the inside, despite what I remember about the automotive line’s interior dimensions? What’s odd, actually, is the fact that a brightly colored machine can remain in this location for so long without becoming soiled by the ambient airborne particulates and pollutants which distinguishes this part of the ancient village. The BQE is literally on the next corner, and Newtown Creek is just down the hill.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over on Northern Boulevard, this fellow was spotted providing the motive force required to actuate his ride along the busy thoroughfare. One applauds the desire to become energy independent, but cautions against this sort of thing. Northern Boulevard is an automotive death machine, from the pedestrian point of view, and you are far better off being inside of a giant metal box than without.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

December 5, 2014 at 12:36 pm

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