The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for the ‘DUKBO’ Category

subsequently worshipped

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A return to DUKBO, and an ending to the hermitage of winter.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned earlier in the week, efforts at re engaging with the lifestyle and physical habits which personal discipline and medical advice demand – habits which this long season of ice and snow have retarded – have been and are underway. A humble narrator has turned into an oddly pallid mass of flabby, quivering, and utterly tumescent gelatin over the winter. Rotting bone and torn cartilage underlies a weakened musculature, and my overall physical and psychological condition has undertaken an unwholesome and worrisome transformation, even my skinvelope has developed an odd translucence.

Wet staring eyes, dull and unblinking, gaze out from beneath a humble narrator’s troubled brow and a voice which may not be a voice speaks in both his dreams and wakeful thoughts. It demands attention, repeating over and over, in a puzzlingly queer collection of wheezing exhalations and hallucinatory percussions, a sound whose closest approximation in the English alphabet can only be expressed as “DUKBO, DUKBO, DUKBO.”

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Problems encountered in this endeavor of physical and spiritual re training have included a series of minor physical maladies. Although many are attributable to the aging process, a couple have been slowing things down noticeably. A bit of tendinitis occurs in a certain knee, while other joints and appendages enjoy and signal the arrival of arthritic symptoms. My back hurts, and so does the middle finger of my right hand, which just seems to spasm out from an otherwise wholesomely clenched fist of its own volition.

The latter may be due to environmental stimuli, and seems to occur a lot when I am in the presence of humans – a habit one is trying to wean himself off of presently.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Right now, a humble narrator can’t wait to get his first solar radiation burns of 2014, when the burning thermonuclear eye of god itself will claim its summer regency over the weather. I’ve decided to follow that sound, a vibration which seems to be calling from both deep within the ground and from above, that rumbling exhortation “DUKBO, DUKBO, DUKBO,” wherever it may lead. Pain and age be damned, who can guess all there is, that might be down there?

The good thing about sunburn - I’ve always thought – is that no matter how dead you are inside, if you’ve got a sunburn you can at least prove to yourself that you are still capable of feeling “something.”

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Written by Mitch Waxman

March 13, 2014 at 11:30 am

An unexpected birthday

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This is a reblog from exactly one year ago, commemorating both the Birthday of the Kosciuszko Bridge and the Night of the Living Dead.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Oh, the old gray mare, she ain’t what she used to be,

Ain’t what she used to be, ain’t what she used to be.

The old gray mare, she ain’t what she used to be, Many long years ago.

Seventy Four years ago today, the Little Flower cut the ribbon and officially opened the “New Meeker Avenue Bridge” to traffic. The following April in 1940, it was renamed as the Kosciuszko Bridge.

It’s the Night of the Living Dead, by the way. Also, it’s Vulcanalia

August 23, 1939, image New York City Municipal Archives at nycma.lunaimaging.com

- photo by Arthur J. Foley

According to the Long Island City Star-Journal of August 24th, 1939- the lineup of folks in the shot and action above are described as:

Mayor LaGuardia snips the ribbon which admitted the first autos lo use the lofty new Meeker Avenue Bridge over Newtown Creek in Laurel Hill, at the dedication held yesterday at Laurel Hill Plaza. To the right of the mayor is Acting Borough President John J. Halloran of Queens. To his left is Borough President Raymond V. Ingersoll of Brooklyn. Left of Ingersoll is Frederick J. H. Kracke, who was commissioner of Plant and Structures when that department originated plans for the bridge.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

American Bridge Company and Bethlehem Steel worked on her, along with dozens of other contractors. The Big K was part of what was known as “the Regional Plan”, which also provied the pretext for the erection of the Triborough, Whitestone, Marine Parkway and a slew of other bridges across the archipelago.

July 14, 1939, image New York City Municipal Archives at nycma.lunaimaging.com,

- photo by Arthur J. Foley

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Odds are very good that this is her last birthday (wrong again, Mitch), as the “Fast Track” program announced by the Governor will be kick starting the construction of a “Newer Meeker Avenue Bridge”- or perhaps the “Kosciuszko Two”- by the late spring of 2013. She will be gone by 2017, if one were to believe the schedule currently touted by State officials.

June 29, 1939, image New York City Municipal Archives at nycma.lunaimaging.com,

- photo by Joseph Shelderfer

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The historic shots included in this post all link out to the New York City Municipal Archives site, which has famously begun releasing thousands of historic images of the City online. One of the tricks to using the system, I’ve discovered, is knowing what things used to be called. It’s a “streetcar” versus “trolley” kind of thing. We call the former light rail system by the latter name, while those who dwelled in the past used the former.

June 29, 1939, image New York City Municipal Archives at nycma.lunaimaging.com,

- photo by Joseph Shelderfer

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Very little information is available about the construction and planning of the Kosciuszko, but there’s plenty about the New Meeker Avenue Bridge. The Big K was built for two official reasons- first, to provide a link between the multitudes of infinite Brooklyn and the World Fair Grounds in Flushing (Flushing Meadow Corona Park), and secondly to replace the aging swing bridge that spanned Newtown Creek between Meeker Avenue in Brooklyn and Laurel Hill Blvd. in Queens. Unofficially, Robert Moses really wanted to get the Brooklyn Queens Expressway built and this was as good a place as any to start.

August 14, 1939, image New York City Municipal Archives at nycma.lunaimaging.com,

- photo by Arthur J. Foley

- photo by Mitch Waxman

One does look forward to that day in the latter half of this decade, which I seriously doubt will be anything even close to 2017, when the pedestrian lane of the new bridge will be open for inspection. One of the most frustrating parts of the current bridge is that it once sported such a lane for perambulation, but it has long been closed off- thwarting photographic exploitation of the surreal vantage point that it offers.

How I would love to set up a tripod on the Kosciuszko Bridge…

from nydailynews.com

Construction on a new bridge is now expected to begin in spring 2013 — a year ahead of schedule, thanks to $460 million made available for the job by Gov. Cuomo’s New York Work initiative.

The 73-year-old bridge, which carries the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway over the Newtown Creek, qualified for the money in part because it is on the state’s “deficient bridge” list.

The initial phase of construction will build an eastbound lane next to the existing bridge, according to the state Department of Transportation, the agency overseeing the project. The 1.1-mile bridge is expected to be done in 2017 and will cost about $800 million.

When completed, two new spans with a total of nine vehicle lanes and paths for pedestrians and bikes will replace the original structure.

Here’s a rare historic shot- in color- of the mighty span, from the year it was opened, also courtesy New York Municipal Archives

- photo by New York City Municipal Archives

- photo by Mitch Waxman

And just as a reminder, in the name of public good and an abundance of caution- don’t forget about the whole Night of the Living Dead thing- this could be trouble.

from youtube-

Want to see something cool? Summer 2013 Walking Tours-

The Poison Cauldron of the Newtown Creek - Saturday, August 24, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets now on sale.

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 23, 2013 at 9:30 am

went silently

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Sometimes you get what you pay for.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Wandering about in DUKBO recently, specifically western Maspeth (aka Berlin) nearby its border with Blissville, your humble narrator found himself confronted with one of the many conundrums which torment. My Dad was a “working guy,” one whose entire body was thrown into the meat grinder of manual labor during his working life. Routinely exposed to paint, solvents, and all sorts of other chemicals which his trade utilized, the old man eventually succumbed to cancer.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The old man had a list of industrial accidents which he would rattle off to those who asked. The time he fell off a ladder and was blinded for a few months when a pail of lye splashed into his eyes, or a freak accident that somehow opened up his inner arm from wrist to armpit which needed 400 stitches to close, or the long lasting bursitis and arthritic after effects of having worked at an industrial butcher in the freezer room when he was a kid. There were busted toes, bad knees, a gamey hip, bulging vertebrae, broken ribs, a shoulder that made sounds when he moved it, and the scar tissue on his hands had formed into thickened gloves.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Other than insisting that I figure out some way to get a desk job instead of following in his footsteps, the old man had no real regrets other than never having won the lottery nor owned a Cadillac. He did what he had to do and always tried to get the job done right, or at least as half assed as he could get away with. This has been referenced before, and when I see working guys doing what the fellow in the shot above is doing, I cringe a bit and start to think about the old man. The guy in the shot is doing so many things wrong, safety wise, that I was half expecting him to just burst into flame as I walked by.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

I spend enough time around the union types that I’ve kind of been infected by their logic. My upstairs neighbor sets out safety cones and a fire extinguisher when he barbecues, but he does something at work which he calls “firewatch” that requires permit and certification. “Even if ya don’t need it Bro, god forbid something happens you can at least say you did everything you could.” Also mentioned, in the past, has been the physical cowardice for which I am famous.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Given to capricious fits of panic and paranoia, your humble narrator attempts full situational awareness at all times, constantly scanning the local vicinity for threats. Those who know me personally will confirm the constant stream of warnings about broken sidewalks, things which drip, or suspicious personages to watch out for that spews forth. Additionally, I advise strangers who are crossing Northern Blvd. to stand behind something while standing at corners and waiting for the light to change. I’m all ‘effed up, but this really isn’t the old mans fault, I was just born weird. One of the things which allows one such as myself nepenthe is the presence of union guys like my pal upstairs, or these poor schmucks on a picket line in front of that dry ice and compressed gas place right at the corner of Laurel Hill and Review. Union labor keeps things nice and safe for the rest of us. You won’t find them sitting on a ladder using a metal grinder to remove paint without wearing glasses or a mask, nor wearing highly flammable synthetic fabrics while doing so.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The old man wasn’t in a union, he had some objection to them- something about the mafia and being Jewish and his older brother- a story which he changed periodically to prove a point or win an argument. I kind of wish he was, at least he would have gotten paid a lot better, and likely wouldn’t have been quite as busted up by the job. This little conundrum of mine, pondered while marching across the concrete devastations of DUKBO, is this: why do I care so much about what happens to strangers, nor mind my own business? Also, if I care so much, what can I do about it?

What would Superman do?

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Want to see something cool? Summer 2013 Walking Tours-

Kill Van Kull- Saturday, June 22, 2013
Staten Island walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Working Harbor Committee, tickets now on sale.

The Insalubrious Valley- Saturday, June 29, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Newtown Creek Alliance, tickets now on sale.

Modern Corridor- Saturday, July 13, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets on sale soon.

carnivorous organisms

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Today’s post visits DUKBO, Down Under the Kosciuszko Bridge Onramp.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

An angle between neighborhoods, this spot is in Maspeth and Sunnyside and Blissville and Laurel Hill all at the same time. It’s alongside the Brooklyn Queens Expressway and the Queens leg of the 1.1 mile long Kosciuszko Bridge Complex and the Long Island Expressway. To the west lies Calvary Cemetery and its tomb legions, and it is known to all simply and aptly as Laurel Hill Blvd.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the spots where Europeans originally settled in Queens, as early as the 1680′s there were farms and houses here, it is nevertheless a forgotten and desolate place seldom traveled to but rather through. In actuality, if you were to count all the humans who travelled by on any given day, the number would suggest one of the most crowded spots on the planet.

Luckily, local artisans have inscribed the spot.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Vast graffiti has been installed, decrying the clarion call of the outer boroughs upon the titan masonry of the bridge’s approach ramp. Epic wit emblazoned with such panache surely indicates the presence of a latter day bard here in this angle between neighborhoods.

Pithy expression, and the freedom to pursue it, indeed.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Happily, everything in Queens faces Manhattan these days, and on a clear day one might be able to discern this delicate missive from the Shining City if atmospheric and lighting conditions are just right. Also, the thought paid by the artist to those visiting the interred at Calvary must be heeded.

Imagine the joy of describing to your grandchild what the word “Scumbag” means as he stands in front of a loved ones grave.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Want to see something cool? June 2013 Walking Tours-

The Poison Cauldron- Saturday, June 15, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets now on sale.

Kill Van Kull- Saturday, June 22, 2013
Staten Island walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Working Harbor Committee, tickets now on sale.

The Insalubrious Valley- Saturday, June 29, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Newtown Creek Alliance, tickets now on sale.

Hidden Harbor Tours: Newtown Creek tour with Mitch Waxman

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“follow” me on Twitter at @newtownpentacle

- photo by Mitch Waxman

On Sunday -the 26th of May- the Working Harbor Committee is producing and offering a boat tour of the Newtown Creek for any interested parties to attend. A special emphasis on the waterway’s storied history and maritime legacy will be made.

I’m going to be doing the history part, speaking in my capacity as the Newtown Creek Alliance Historian, and am tasked with highlighting the various points of interest encountered along the route. Anticipated to be some three hours in length, this boat tour will be delving some three miles inland, proceeding to the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge crossing English Kills in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The Maritime History of Newtown Creek is one largely forgotten in these decadent times, but even now an odd tugboat and barge might be spied making their way down the waterway on any given day. Property owners were considered to have been blessed by some of the finest industrial bulkheads in the world a mere century ago, yet many of the businesses based along the Creek today ignore this invaluable resource, allowing their waterfront property to decay and decline.

Nevertheless, a staggering amount of maritime traffic is still observed here, and towing companies such as Reinauer, K-Sea, DonJon, and Poling and Cutler are regular visitors.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Vast operations will be witnessed by those onboard, many of which are involved in the scrap metal and recyclables trade. Responsible for an enormous amount of cross harbor shipping, companies such as SimsMetal are heavily reliant on the maritime trades for their economic success.

Not all that long ago, Newtown Creek carried a greater tonnage of cargo than the entire Mississippi River.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

An active and thriving industrial zone in the center of New York City, from the water one can truly grasp the sheer scale of Newtown Creek’s busy waterfront. Normally hidden by high fences and obscured by street facing structures, the intensity of the Newtown Creek is laid bare before the admiring gaze of first time visitor and veteran urban explorer alike.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

A tributary of the estuarine East River, Newtown Creek extends some 3.8 miles from its junction with the more familiar waterway, and provides demarcation for the currently undefended border of much of Brooklyn and Queens. Named to the Federal Superfund list, the Creek suffers from a history of environmental degradation and municipal neglect.

An era of great change is upon the Newtown Creek, and this trip will be one of your last chances to see it in its current form.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

We will see four moveable bridges, and this year will be your last chance to see the static Kosciuszko Bridge as the NYS DOT has indicated that construction on its replacement will begin as early as the Fall of 2013.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Along it’s banks, great fortunes have risen.

Amongst others- Peter Cooper (BO Railroad, Canton Iron, and Cooper Union), Charles Pratt (Astral Oil, and Pratt University), and ultimately John D. Rockefeller (Standard Oil)- all grew richer than the dreams of avarice in this place. Alongside them, the darkest mills of the industrial revolution- rendering plants, yeast distilleries, bone blackers, and acid factories provided tens of thousands of jobs to the immigrant populations of Brooklyn and Queens. Today- National Grid, BP, Amoco, ExxonMobil, and a host of other multinational companies still maintain an enormous investment in this valuable industrial canal.

Upcoming tour: Hidden Harbor Tours: Newtown Creek tour with Mitch Waxman.

On May 26th, Mitch shares his unique point of view and deep understanding of the past, present and future conditions of the Newtown Creek as the narrator and expedition leader for this years’ Hidden Harbor Tours: Newtown Creek tour with Mitch Waxman.

Our NY Water Taxi leaves from South Street Seaport at 10 a.m. (sharp) for a three hour tour of the Newtown Creek. From the East River we’ll move into the Newtown Creek where we’ll explore explore vast amounts of maritime infrastructure, see many movable bridges and discover the very heart of the Hidden Harbor.

Limited seating available, get your tickets today.

Tickets $59, trip leaves Pier 17 at South Street Seaport at 10a.m. sharp.

We will be traveling in a comfortable NY Water Taxi vessel with indoor and outdoor seating. There will be refreshments and snacks available for purchase at the bar.

Other upcoming tours:

Parks and Petroleum- Sunday, May 12, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Newtown Creek Alliance, tickets now on sale.

The Insalubrious Valley- Saturday, May 25, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets now on sale.

for a full listing and schedule of tours and events, click here

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