The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘Construction’ Category

daytime pilgrimmage

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Jackson Avenue, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has been watching the construction efforts underway at the former West Chemical site adjoining Queens Plaza for a while now. Building condominium towers in Queens Plaza is a questionable proposition, beggaring the question “who would really want to live in Queens Plaza?,” but the bigger one for me is “would you want to live on the former location of a chemical factory?.” I often remark to myself that the reason why the history of Queens is often so tough a nut to crack is the careful obfuscation of its past by the real estate industrial complex so as to preclude casual mention of the fact that so many of the new residential towers rising from Western Queens are in fact built atop such sites.

State and City officialdom call sites like these “brownfields,” which sounds a lot better than “toxic and irreversibly polluted” I guess. Just say “affordable housing” or “green infrastructure” and you’ll feel better about the whole thing.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Brownfield remediation, or “opportunity area,” sounds a heck of a lot better at cocktail parties and let’s face it – lower Manhattan and North Brooklyn cocktail parties tend to grind into uncomfortable territory when you mention the environmental consequence of a century’s worth of industrial use. One would point out that at least the “powers that are” aren’t planning on putting a school on top of the old West Chemical site, but that brings up the uncomfortable subject of the infrastructure required to support a residential population being inserted into a former industrial zone, and the lack thereof, so that’s best avoided as well so as to not make the bond brokers skittish and derail the program.

It will not be conducive, condo sales wise, to mention all of those closed FDNY units or the frankly astounding conditions encountered at the centuried Queensboro or Ravenswood NYCHA projects, nor where the nearest hospital emergency room is located.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The old “chickens coming home to roost” adage will likely be punching Western Queens in the nose some time in the late 2020’s – by my estimate. That’s when our trains will be running at (instead of near) capacity, our lack of school desks and hospital beds will be most apparent, and when the new populations installed in these former industrial corridors begin to organize – politically speaking. One wonders if these new populations will vote in as reliable and “party loyal” a fashion as the current residents do. Will the 20’s roar, or howl, for the Democrats?

The folks who can afford the so called “affordable housing,” rising from these “brownfields,” will they vote for a Democrat party candidate and continue the rule of the “Queens Machine” – or will they support somebody else who is a little more in tune with them socioeconomically? Only time, and a roll of the political dice, will tell.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

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

green banks

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Checking on the scene in DUKBO, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recently, one attended an excursion with the NYC DEP, the EPA CSTAG committee, and whole lot of other alphabetical agency types. This was a part of the Superfund process, and I was along in my capacity with Newtown Creek Alliance and the Newtown Creek Community Advisory Group. This post won’t discuss the various bits of pedantry and maneuvering between the various entities onboard, and is instead a progress report centered the Kosciuszko Bridge construction and replacement project underway at my beloved Newtown Creek.

From the landward side, it’s difficult to see what progress has been made here, but as with all points of view around the Newtown Creek – all is revealed.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Skanska is the principal on the project, and they are drumming right along.

As you can see, on “used to be Cherry Street” over in Greenpoint, steel frames for the concrete legs of the new bridge have risen. My understanding is that the foundations for the bridge footings were laid back during the winter, and that despite the freezing conditions, work was well underway by the time things began to warm up in April.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The new Kosciuszko Bridge is going to be significantly lower in height than the current span, but will incorporate several design features to alleviate the congestion which has been found at the intersection of Long Island Expressway and Brooklyn Queens Expressway for generations. The project is playing out in several phases, with the first one being the construction of the new bridge and rerouting of its 2.1 miles of approach roads and the demolition of the 1939 era bridge.

When all that’s done, they start on the easterly half of the new Kosciuszko Bridge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The new Kosciuszko Bridge is going to be of the “cable stay” type, which will make it a novelty in NYC. Most exciting for me is the promise of a pedestrian walkway on the western side of the span, which should make for some interesting visuals – “I should only live so long enough to see it finished” is what my Gradmother would have said.

Personally, I’m going to refer to it as “climbing K2.”

“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.

preserved body

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LIC, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One always seems to be heading somewhere, but somehow I never seem to arrive. An attempt to grab as many shots of the Bank of Manhattan Building in Queens Plaza, before a 70 atory monstrosity rises next to it (literally) has been underway for several months. Got this one on Sunday morning, while walking over to Greenpoint to conduct a Newtown Creek Walking Tour for Newtown Creek Alliance and the Municpal Art Society’s Janeswalk event. I’m seldom found in Queens Plaza in the morning, so a few camera dials were adjusted and the shutter button was pressed.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Along my path, this hunk of construction equipment was encountered, which was similarly bathed in morning light. Should Western Queens ever adopt its own flag, I would suggest that both back hoe’s and construction cranes form part of the design.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Speaking of construction, over on the corner of Jackson Avenue and the former Jane Street in Queens Plaza, you’d never know that West Chemical was ever there. Thats part of the plan I suppose – who would want to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a condominium in Queens Plaza if they knew their home was founded on the site of a chemical factory? The Real Estate Industrial Comlex has done pretty good work in obfuscating the history of Hunters Point – no one there asks about the plumes of Benzene, Oil, or solvents in the ground.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

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.

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 7, 2015 at 11:00 am

all massing

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Better late than never.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a community over on reddit which posts “shower thoughts.” It’s usually the deep revelation stuff: “buying a Lay Z Boy makes you a lazy boy” sort of ideas. My brain is a bit bruised today – one has been attempting to force the organ to fulfill its purpose (other than just acting as a counterweight for my butt) of late – so I won’t bore you with my little snippets of realized truth as they would all sound something like: “tired, so tired, tired, my foot hurts, tired…” and so on. That’s what my shower thoughts might sound like when I’m transversing Ravenswood.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Speaking of Ravenswood, somebody went to no small amount of effort at creating a giant hole in the ground nearby Queens Plaza. This aperture was something like 30-40 feet across and of an unknown depth. I’d like to think that NYPD has finally found that vampire nest they’ve been searching for, you know, the ones that attack the Blood Center on Vernon every night.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One is sticking close to home this weekend, as next week “it begins.” “It” is Newtown Creek tour season, and I’m likely not going to see too much of home on Saturdays and Sundays for the next several months – a welcome counterpart to the frozen season recently past.

“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.

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 24, 2015 at 4:26 pm

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

strange oceans

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Over on Davis Street in LIC.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Early for an appointment, one recently had some time to kill around the Court Square section of LIC, and I decided to visit “used to be 5Ptz” to see what was doing there. Funnily enough, the site is now referred to as the Brownfield Cleanup Program’s “Former Neptune Meter (NYS DEC # C25=41138)” site now, which hearkens one back to the industrial days of yesteryear.

“Transform the Past… Build for the Future.” It says that on the sign.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As you’ll recall, for many years this site was the home of 5ptz, NYC’s premier gallery for street art. The owners of the structure decided not too long ago that it was time to evict the institution and replace it with luxury apartments. Not to worry though, there will be an “affordable” component to the builds, so if you want to live alongside the 7 train’s elevated track and the Sunnyside Yard – it’ll be in reach starting at $2,200 – 2,500 a month for a one bedroom before too long.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As I’ve stated in the past, one does not condemn the owners of the land for seeking the greatest value out of it. It’s their property, and in many ways they should be lauded for maintaining the Neptune Meter building for as long as they did and allowing 5Ptz its long residency. The thing that just smacks one in the face, however, is the fact that their residential development is going to be called 5Pointz Towers.

That just stinks, its bad branding, and rubs the community’s face in the mud for no reason.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Not sure what’s going on in this shot. My first instinct is that there is some sort of prehistoric beast that has been trapped beneath the Neptune Building all of these years, and that a substantial weight must be used in the name of keeping it imprisoned until the new towers rise and permanently cage it once again. I am, of course, an idiot.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Unfortunately, my upstairs neighbor who works in the construction field and would be able to instantly recognize this technique and tell me all about it isn’t at home as this post is being prepared. He’s taking his niece to see Cinderella, I’m told.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

March 26, 2015 at 11:00 am

molecular motion

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First, you make a hole, then you fill the hole. Why bother?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Not too many days ago, a humble narrator was startled by a positive cacophony arising from without. Even by the standards of Astoria, which seems to present one with oceans of variegated and unending noise, this was an outlandish amount of sound. Sounded like someone was tearing apart the very street. Turns out, they were.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This seemed to be a crew working for Verizon, the same ones I spotted on Queens Boulevard that were installing fiber optic lines and whose operation was examined in the post “nervous element.” They had the same saw truck thing, the CC155 Vermeer, which I feel deuty bound to point out the efficacy of – both in its intended role in sawing up the pavement, and for its potential as an anti “Horde of Zombies” weapon.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One such as myself is endlessly fascinated by projects like this, wherein a cross section of “down there” stands revealed for a few moments. The layer cake of street, particularly over and around subways as in the case of Astoria’s Broadway, tells you a lot about how things actually work. You got sewers, pipes of all descriptions (many of which go nowhere and are connected to nothing that has existed above ground for a half century or more), that there’s all manner of buried items would suffice. There’s subway tracks below, so this actually isn’t a street at all – as in paved ground, so I suppose it’s actually a sort of roof that they’re noisily cutting into.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The operation kept on having to slow down and bring in guys with shovels, picks, and pry bars when the big zombie fighting saw machine started bringing up chunks of wood. The stuff splintered up, and seemed to be material that the crew needed to clear away manually. Some fairly large chunks of timber came out of the trench. A guess would be that’s it’s likely a layer of creosoted timber which is sitting on top of the steel and cement “cut and cover” subway tunnel that’s about 20 or so feet down. The scene also cast some doubt about the Vermeer being used against Zombies, whose splintered skulls would be similarly treated by the unit.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I turned away from the scene for a bit, made some coffee and answered a few emails. Suddenly, the sound of a giant “not so appropriate for killing Zombies or tearing through wet lumber but amazing at trenching concrete and asphalt saw machine” stopped, and the scent of hot asphalt filled the air. The only sounds enjoyed at this time were the driving rhythm of a ground tamper and the staccato of a dump truck diesel engine. Soon, the crew’s carefully dug trench was carefully filled in.

The Vermeer was seen last night, parked over on Jackson Avenue in LIC, near 23rd street and in front of the former 5ptz. The crew was nowhere to be found, but to be fair, it was something like 9 p.m.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Walking Tours-

Saturday, September 27th, 13 Steps Around Dutch Kills
Walking Tour with Atlas Obscura, click here for tickets and more info.

Sunday, September 28th, The Poison Cauldron of the Newtown Creek
Walking Tour with Brooklyn Brainery, click here for tickets and more info.

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 19, 2014 at 11:00 am

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