The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘Hunters Point Avenue Bridge’ Category

brief space

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An interesting effect observed.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

By this stage of the game, lords and ladies, the shot above must depict a scene quite familiar to your eyes. The waterway is the Dutch Kills tributary of the fabled Newtown Creek, and the industrial buildings framing it part of the Degnon Terminal here in Long Island City, Queens. The water is frozen, as would be expected in this frigid month.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Hanging around with the Newtown Creek Alliance folks, one of the terms I’ve learned which cannot be expunged from active memory is “sediment mound.” That’s when an open sewer deposits layer after layer of its cargo, over the course of decades, and piles up a mound. These mounds are normally indistinct to the eye, sitting hidden in the turbid water.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

What’s interesting in these shots, to me at least, is that the sediment mounds and other features of the bed which Dutch Kills flows through, are visible in the melting edges of the ice. It appeared that the ice didn’t form as solidly at the shorelines as it did in the center of the water. The center was, in fact, a solid plate of ice which had garbage rolling around on it.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

These were captured on January the 11th, a very foggy day. The shot above is a stitched panorama, which depicts the entire water way while facing roughly southwards.

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The 2013 Spring and Summer Tours Schedule

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“follow” me on Twitter at @newtownpentacle

Pana_NCA_CreekEDU_Boat_102311_013359_a

- photo by Mai Armstrong

Want to see something cool?

Odds are that a bunch of the folks who will be reading this might have no idea who Mitch Waxman is, why they should come along with him on a tour of some weird neighborhood in Brooklyn or Queens or Staten Island, nor what a Newtown Creek or Kill Van Kull are- let alone where. Who is this weirdo?

Check out the “bio” page here at Newtown Pentacle, or this profile of me from the NY Times published in 2012. My tours of Newtown Creek have garnered no small amount of interest from the fourth estate- whether it be DNAInfountappedcities.com, Queens Chroniclenewyorkview.net, the 22blog, photobycateblog.com, or Queensnyc, and I’ve turned up in a bunch of media reports, documentaries, and been interviewed for multitudinous reports on the lamentable history of the Newtown Creek.

Most recently, it was National Geographic and Curbed. Attendees on my tours come from a variety of backgrounds- photographers, history and rail buffs, maritime enthusiasts, and there always seems to be an odd and welcome concentration of elected officials and journalists about.

What is with this guy?

I’m the Newtown Creek Alliance Historian, Official Photographer and Steering Committee member of the Working Harbor Committee, a member of the Newtown Creek Monitoring Committee and the Newtown Creek CAG, and am also a member of the Kosciuszko Bridge Stakeholders Advisory Committee. Newtown Pentacle, this blog, has been steadily published since 2009. I live in Astoria, Queens with my wife and our little dog, Zuzu.

In just the last few years, I have exposed thousands of people to the Newtown Creek, and its incredible history. This is where the industrial revolution actually happened, along this 3.8 mile long waterway that defines the border of Brooklyn and Queens.

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- photo by Mai Armstrong

In 2013, continuing relationships with Atlas Obscura, Newtown Creek Alliance, and the Working Harbor Committee (as well as friends like the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance, and others) allow me to offer the following schedule. Live ticketing links will be made available as they come online, and all dates are subject to cancellation or rescheduling due to weather or unforeseen circumstance. There are 6 unique walking tours listed here, and one boat trip in which I will be the principal speaker.

Private tours are possible, schedule permitting, and can be arranged by contacting me here. Last year, for instance, several private University classes engaged me for a day at the Creek, as did a few private groups. As mentioned, contact me and we will figure something out if you’ve got a meetup group, college class, or special request.

Here then, is my official schedule as it stands right now. There will likely be a few additions as time goes on, which I will let you know about as they occur. Best to subscribe to this blog (top right, email subscription)  or “follow” me on Twitter @newtownpentacle for news.

In April, 2013- There will be a brand new tour  of Greenpoint debuted, which I call “Glittering Realms.”

Glittering Realms- Saturday, April 20, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets now on sale.

In May, 2013- We start off with 13 Steps around Dutch Kills, go to the Insalubrious Valley, visit DUKBO, and finish off the month with a Working Harbor boat tour.

13 Steps around Dutch Kills- Saturday, May 4, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets now on sale.

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

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

Hidden Harbor: Newtown Creek tour with Mitch Waxman – Sunday, May 26,2013
Boat tour presented by the Working Harbor Committee,
Limited seating available, order advance tickets now. Group rates available.

NCA Birdwatch Bus tour- June 24, 2012

- photo by Mai Armstrong

In June, 2013- We visit the Poison Cauldron, return to the Insalubrious Valley, and check out the Kill Van Kull.

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

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

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

In July, 2013- We visit Queens’s Hunters Point with a brand new tour. I might have another offering or two for you, but nothing I can speak about quite yet.

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

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- photo by Mai Armstrong

In August, 2013- We return to the Poison Cauldron, repeat the 13 steps, and the Kill Van Kull walks.

Kill Van Kull- Saturday, August 10, 2013
Staten Island walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Working Harbor Committee, tickets on sale soon.

13 Steps around Dutch Kills- Saturday, August 17, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Newtown Creek Alliance, tickets on sale soon.

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

There are a few other dates coming in the fall, and a couple of more summer events which are still being discussed, but I’ll let you know more about them in coming posts.

Also, I will definitely be onboard but not on the microphone during the Working Harbor Committee “Beyond Sandy” Hidden Harbor tours on Tuesday nights, all summer. Hope you can come along.

Click here for more on “Beyond Sandy.”

indefinable odors

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This is a reblog of the post “indefinable odors“, which focused in on the little commented Hunters Point Avenue Bridge. Sorry for the repeat, fresh and new stuff is in the pipes.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Down by Dutch Kills, one must persevere to maintain some inkling of hope for the future of mankind.

Saying that, however, in its own way Dutch Kills is actually quite a lovely place- as storied industrial centers which have seen better days typically are. A canalized waterway, Dutch Kills is a tributary of that languid cautionary tale known as the Newtown Creek, and has been isolated for several seasons from its principate source by emergency bridge construction and a changing industrial landscape. I’m down here a lot of course, most recently in the “from some point in space” posting of November 3rd, which includes an intriguing set of high elevation shots of the area which I recently managed to capture.

from nyc.gov

Hunters Point Avenue is a two-lane local City street in Queens. Hunters Point Avenue is oriented east-west and extends from 21st Street to the Long Island Expressway/Brooklyn Queens Expressway interchange in Queens. The avenue is parallel to and approximately one block south of the Long Island Expressway. The Hunters Point Bridge over Dutch Kills is situated between 27th Street and 30th Street in the Long Island City section of Queens, and is four blocks upstream of the Borden Avenue Bridge. It is a bascule bridge with a span of 21.8m. The general appearance of the bridge has been significantly changed since it was first opened in 1910. The bridge provides a channel with a horizontal clearance of 18.3m and a vertical clearance, in the closed position, of 2.4m at MHW and 4.0m at MLW. The bridge structure carries a two-lane, two-way vehicular roadway with sidewalks on either side. The roadway width is 11.0m, while the sidewalks are 1.8m wide. The width of the approach roadways vary from the width of the bridge roadway. The west approach and east approach roadways are 13.4m and 9.1m, respectively.

The first bridge at this site, a wooden structure, was replaced by an iron bridge in 1874. That bridge was permanently closed in 1907 due to movement of the west abutment, which prevented the draw from closing. It was replaced in 1910 by a double-leaf bascule bridge, designed by the Scherzer Rolling Lift Bridge Company. The bridge was rebuilt in the early 1980′s as a single-leaf bascule, incorporating the foundations of the previous bridge.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Seldom commented, the Hunters Point Avenue Bridge segments Dutch Kills neatly, and has done so for nigh on a century now. The marshes and streams which once typified the area before the advance of railroad and vast agglutination of industrial installation are long gone, relegated to subterranean sewers and masonry clad spillways, but a century ago- the Hunters Point Avenue Bridge (and its predecessors) allowed egress between the terrestrial isolation of the Long Island City center and the rest of western Queens.

The NY Times, in 1908, commented that Long Island City might someday be known as “A city of bridges” due to the many crossings over the tributaries of the Newtown Creek and the presence of mighty Queensboro at its center.

from federalregister.gov

The Hunters Point Avenue Bridge, at mile 1.4, over the Dutch Kills has vertical clearances of 8 feet at mean high water and 13 feet at mean low water. The existing regulations for the Hunters Point Avenue Bridge in 33 CFR 117.801(d) require the draw to open on signal if at least a one-hour advance notice is given to the drawtender at the Grand Street/Avenue Bridge, the NYCDOT Radio Hotline, or NYCDOT Bridge Operations Office. In the event the drawtender is at the Roosevelt Island Bridge or the Borden Avenue Bridge, up to an additional half-hour delay may occur.

The bridge owner, the New York City Department of Transportation (NYCDOT), submitted bridge opening log data to the Coast Guard for review. The bridge owner plans to operate these bridges with multiple crews of drawtenders. The two-hour advance notice should allow sufficient time for the crews to operate these bridges due to the close proximity of the bridges to each other. Recent yearly openings have been relatively low which will allow the bridge owner to utilize the roving crew concept and still meet the needs of navigation.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The Hunters Point Avenue Bridge (the 1910 version) was configured differently than the modern structure when first built, although the original was constructed for some $95,214 from plans by the Scherzer Rolling Lift Bridge Company with the dirty work performed by the Duseath Engineering Company of 114 Liberty St. NY. As you’d imagine, there is a certain logic behind the esoterica presented about this obscure little bridge found in a literal “industrial backwater” in Queens.

But… I can’t tell you what is is yet…   (it was a Bridge centennial parade)

from nysdot.gov

About 1900, most of the Newtown Creek was bulkheaded and occupied by about fifty industrial properties. Undeveloped or less developed sections without bulkheads included Dutch Kills, about 2,000 feet of shoreline in Queens just above Dutch Kills with two LIRR lighterage piers, about 1,000 feet of shoreline in Queens near the Penny Bridge, and about 3,500 feet of shoreline downstream of Maspeth Avenue in Brooklyn.15 Dutch Kills, and the Queens side of Newtown Creek, just upstream of Dutch Kills, were developed circa 1905-1912, largely through the efforts of the Degnon Terminal & Realty Company. The Degnon firm created an industrial park with rail and marine access around Dutch Kills between about Hunters Point and 47th Avenue, Dutch Kills subsequently was included within USACE dredging projects. Without federal assistance, Degnon created a 150-foot-wide channel with 2,400 feet of bulkhead, including a turning basin. To create rail links to the development, Degnon helped the LIRR build a new 1,000-acre freight terminal circa 1907 along Newtown Creek east of Dutch Kills on property bought from Calvary Cemetery, including several short piers intended to handle heavy freight such as brick, coal, lumber, and ice. From this terminal, a private Degnon Terminal Railroad was created, largely through local streets. On newly filled marshy margins of Dutch Kills, Degnon Terminal & Realty promoted industrial development both on and away from the water. One iron works and several large building materials firms occupied the Degnon waterfront by the early 1920s. Reconstruction of the two movable bridges over Dutch Kills circa 1908-10 contributed to these developments. On other Degnon lots, large firms included the American Eveready Company and the American Chiclet Company, respective makers of  batteries and candy.16 Facilitating this growth was the construction of the Queensboro Bridge (1909) and the start of the operation of the IRT subway line in 1917.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Unfortunately, I can’t announce the news yet… Let’s just say that it would be a good idea to leave the 11th of December open, and that Long Island City is terrible in its grandeur during the winter months.

More on this will be forthcoming by the end of the week.

from wikipedia

Edward Byrne began his civil engineering career in 1886 with the New York City Aqueduct Commission on the construction of the Croton Water Supply System. It is of interest that on this project he met Robert Ridgway, who also was destined to become a distinguished engineer and an outstanding civil servant.

From 1889 to the close of 1897, Byrne worked on highways and bridges for the old Department of Public Works of New York City.

On January 1, 1898, he joined the Department of Bridges and began a striking and noteworthy service which ended in November, 1933, with his resignation from the position of Chief Engineer of the Department of Plant and Structures (the successor of the Bridge Department), in order to assume the duties of Chief Engineer of the Triborough Bridge. His thirty-six years of service in the Department of Bridges, and its successor, the Department of Plant and Structures, may be divided into two periods.

Borden Avenue Bridge

During this period, he was in charge of bridge construction and maintenance, supervising the construction of the Willis Avenue Bridge over the Harlem River, the Vernon Avenue Bridge, the Borden Avenue and Hunters Point Bridges over Dutch Kills, and the old bridge over Flushing River.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Also, as a note:

I get asked all the time what these signs mean, what they indicate, and how seriously they should be regarded. The powers that be don’t make it easy to find out, for despite the “for more information” attribution, the City doesn’t go into much detail at nyc.gov/dep about them. Partly, this is due to the vogue followed by municipal authorities in recent years which allows private contractors to perform public work. The contractor is under no obligation to release their work into the public domain, as government workers are, and many important details about our metropolis ends up hidden behind corporate firewalls.

Here’s a little of the Batman type detection required to penetrate a purposely obtuse subject, which is a skill I’ve been developing over the lifetime of this, your Newtown Pentacle.

Quoting from hydroqual.com

The Bowery Bay WPCP is permitted by the NYSDEC under SPDES permit number NY-0026158. The facility is located at 43-01 Berrian Blvd., Astoria, NY, 11105 in the Astoria section of Queens, on a 34.6 acre site adjacent to the Rikers Island Channel, leading into the Upper East River, bounded by Berrian Blvd. and Steinway Street. The Bowery Bay WPCP serves an area of approximately 16,105 acres in the Northwest section of Queens, including the communities of KewGarden Hills, Rego Park, Forest Hills, Forest Hills Gardens, North Corona, South Corona, Lefrak City, Elmhurst, East Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, Maspeth, Woodside, Sunnyside Gardens, Sunnyside, Hunters Point, Long Island City, Astoria, Astoria Heights, Steinway, Ravenswood, and Roosevelt Island.

and from the same document this text and chart

The Low Level service area contains 46 regulators, of which 19 interconnected regulators discharge to the Newtown Creek during wet weather through the 13 CSOs. Of these 13 CSOs, 6 discharge to the tributary Dutch Kills (BB-004, 009, 010, 026, 040, and 042), and 6 discharge to Newtown Creek(BB-011, 012, 013, 014, 015, and 043). An additional 2-feet, 8-inches x 4-foot outfall, BB-049, is listed in the Bowery Bay WPCP SPDES permit as discharging to Dutch Kills near 21st Street, but no further information is available such as which regulator it is connected to.

social upheaval

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

Holy smokes! Two enormous lots, formerly bisected by an abandoned railway line sweeping across the entire lot, found between the Dutch Kills tributary of the Newtown Creek and 30th street to the west and east and between Borden and Hunters Point Avenues to the south and north, have been entirely razed. The Hunters Point Avenue side, until recently, held the plant of “National Envelope” and the other has been vacant for quite some time.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

This must be the first time in almost a hundred years that this point of view has been available from Borden Avenue, a wide open vista showing the Degnon Terminal- or at least the survivors of it- that stretches all the way to Queens Plaza. Incidentally, the dust that this project is kicking out is massive, and the day these shots were obtained- was heading in a westerly direction toward the recently repopulated neighborhood of Hunters Point commonly referred to as Long Island City.

Upon observing this, I made it a point to stay upwind of the dust plume.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m told that the next incarnation of this site along Dutch Kills will be a Federal Express shipping center, which will be enormous if the entire footprint of this site is used. That’s going to be a LOT of trucks coming and going through this ancient neighborhood and Western Queens in general.

Let’s hope that the century old bridges on Borden and Hunters Point Avenue can handle the additional load.

Wonder how the large shipments of bulk freight coming from the airports will travel here, or how the hundreds of local delivery Fed-Ex trucks will get to Manhattan, and North Brooklyn, and Eastern Queens- by which routes they will travel, and through whose neighborhoods?

ALSO, this Friday, as in tonight:

My own attempt at presenting a cogent narrative and historical journey “up the creek” is up coming as well-

Your humble narrator will be narrating humbly on Friday, February 24th at 7:30 P.M. for the“Ridgewood Democratic Club, 60-70 Putnam Avenue, Ridgewood, NY 11385 as the “Newtown Creek Magic Lantern Show” is presented to their esteemed group. The club hosts a public meeting, with guests and neighbors welcome, and say that refreshments will be served.

The “Magic Lantern Show” is actually a slideshow, packed with informative text and graphics, wherein we approach and explore the entire Newtown Creek. Every tributary, bridge, and significant spot are examined and illustrated with photography. This virtual tour will be augmented by personal observation and recollection by yours truly, with a question and answer period following.

For those of you who might have seen it last year, the presentation has been streamlined, augmented with new views, and updated with some of the emerging stories about Newtown Creek which have been exclusively reported on at this- your Newtown Pentacle.

For more information, please contact me here.

What: Newtown Creek Magic Lantern Show

When: Friday, February 24th at 7:30 P.M.

Where: Ridgewood Democratic Club, 60-70 Putnam Avenue, Ridgewood, NY 11385

Magic Lantern Show in Ridgewood

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Your humble narrator will be narrating humbly on Friday, February 24th at 7:30 P.M. for the “Ridgewood Democratic Club, 60-70 Putnam Avenue, Ridgewood, NY 11385” as the “Newtown Creek Magic Lantern Show” is presented to their esteemed group. The club hosts a public meeting, with guests and neighbors welcome, and say that refreshments will be served.

The “Magic Lantern Show” is actually a slideshow, packed with informative text and graphics, wherein we approach and explore the entire Newtown Creek. Every tributary, bridge, and significant spot are examined and illustrated with photography. This virtual tour will be augmented by personal observation and recollection by yours truly, with a question and answer period following.

For those of you who might have seen it last year, the presentation has been streamlined, augmented with new views, and updated with some of the emerging stories about Newtown Creek which have been exclusively reported on at this- your Newtown Pentacle.

For more information, please contact me here.

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