The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for the ‘Construction’ Category

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

nervous element

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Cutting up Queens Blvd. in today’s post.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Bigger and quite a bit badder than the masonry saw witnessed in last week’s posting “dusk comes,” your humble narrator recently spotted a crew on Queens Blvd. creating a street trench using a 155 HP Vermeer CC155 Concrete Cutter. The gizmo uses a giant (84 inches in diameter) wheel, one that sports carbide tipped teeth, to chew into the asphalt and underlying cement of the so called “Boulevard of Death.”

from vermeer.com

Cutting streets for utility installation or pothole repair is no problem for the Vermeer CC155. With the sustained torque output of its Tier II 155 hp/115.6 kW Cummins engine and a microprocessor to manage load control, the CC155 is a smart choice for interstate and highway repair, airport lighting projects, and demolition work.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Quoting my union laborer buddy who lives upstairs, whom I casually mentioned encountering this device to – “Bro, y’know how much time ya save with a trencher? Pssshhhht. (he demonstratively lit a Marlboro Red at this point) Bro, I friggin hate jackhammers, screws up my back every time I use one bro, gotta have a trencher Bro, ya gotta.” One couldn’t help but notice that the signage adorning the traffic bollard which the crew had set about indicated that they were working on a Verizon project, which is presumptively the roll out of FIOS in Queens.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Let’s face it, everything sucks, but nothing outside of government sucks more than Time Warner Cable. That organization represents such a high level of suck that they should be sent to Albany and turned into a branch of State government whose singular mission is “to suck,” and become the official state agency in charge of obfuscation and incompetent management – the OIM. Your humble narrator welcomes anyone who will provide competition to those clowns, even if its “Ma Bell,” and if it means attacking the boulevard of death with a giant saw then so be it.

There are two public Newtown Creek walking tours coming up, one in Queens and one that walks the currently undefended border of the two boroughs.

DUPBO, with Newtown Creek Alliance and MAS Janeswalk, on May 3rd.
Click here for more info and ticketing.

Modern Corridor, with Brooklyn Brainery, on May 18th.
Click here for more info and ticketing.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 30, 2014 at 11:48 am

freely generating

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If you see something, photograph it and say something.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Despite the overt messaging offered by security professionals and municipal Police officials concerning the presence of literally millions of desert born sappers hidden alongside the heaving shorelines of a lake called Freedom, there do seem to be quite a few holes in the fence lines of our rail yards. Probably, this is because the security apparatus of these institutions need to strike different nerves to acquire their sources of funds, rather than to rankle the ire of the common proletarians and politicians alike.

Luckily, this homeland insecurity allows one such as myself opportunity to observe some often esoteric kit which the railroad people employ for “maintenance of way.”

from wikipedia

A railroad crane, (US: crane car or wrecker; UK: breakdown crane) is a type of crane used on a railroad for one of three primary uses: freight handling in goods yards, permanent way (PW) maintenance, and accident recovery work. Although the design differs according to the type of work, the basic configuration is similar in all cases: a rotating crane body is mounted on a sturdy chassis fitted with flanged wheels. The body supports the jib (UK; US: boom) and provides all the lifting and operating mechanisms; on larger cranes, an operator’s cabin is usually provided. The chassis is fitted with buffing and coupling gear to allow the crane to be moved by a locomotive, although many are also self-propelled to allow limited movement about a work site.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s a flat bed car coupled to a self propelled rail crane, called a Burro, you’re looking at there. What your humble narrator doesn’t know about the rails is enormous and the scope of my ignorance on the subject is actually breathtaking, so if i misname something or am just wrong on this subject- please instruct and correct via the comments section.

Corrections and additions are always welcome at this, your Newtown Pentacle.

from rootsofmotivepower.org

Burro cranes (some were outfitted with shovels, as the one at Roots) were designed to be self-sufficient maintenance-of-way tools. As such, they were self-powered, and could propel not only themselves, but could take along with them a flat car, gondola, dump car or other equipment needed for their work. Therefore, they could take with them rail, ballast, timbers or any other materials needed for track repair or construction.

These utilitarian rail vehicles have been built by several manufacturers, including Cullen-Friestedt, Federal Sign & Signal, and now by the Badger Equipment Company. But they have always retained the name Burro, and if you say Burro to a railroader, he knows that you’re not referring to the four-legged animal.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Extensive construction and demolition work has been underway at Sunnyside Yards in anticipation of the East Side Access project for several years now, but these fellows with their Burro were MOW workers.

from maintenanceofway.com

Railroad Maintenance-of-Way (MOW) machinery and its design and utilization, is the equipment used by railroads to lay, clear, and maintain railroad track infrastructure and is of paramount importance in keeping the world’s railroads running dependably, safely and profitably. Railroads are a key component of the world economy. Corn, beans and other foods and feeds, coal, oil, manufactured goods, building materials, and virtually everything else that one can name, moves by rail. The volume of goods transported by the railroads is increasing dramatically. Existing railroad track must carry more and heavier traffic. Railroad bridges must be repaired and maintained. Fences, walls, gates, area lighting and other security structures are of increasing importance. Increased traffic and speeds adds to demand on signals. Railroad and railway Maintenance-of-Way equipment and utilization strategies play a key role in keeping all rail traffic running safely and on time. Railroad Maintenance-of-Way equipment and utilization efficiency planning make it possible for railroads to upgrade and maintain track and rights of way.

Want to see something cool? Upcoming Walking Tours

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

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

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

tireless and continuing

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“follow” me on Twitter at @newtownpentacle

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Missives regarding the Newtown Creek reach my desk all the time, mostly describing activist causes and far reaching governmental plans, but a particular message from the United States Coast Guard seemed to be the sort of thing which will likely affect the communities (on both sides and upon the water) which are nearby the troubled waterway so I decided to share it with you.

The Greenpoint Avenue Bridge is going to receiving attention, this summer, from NYC DOT bridge painting crews.

from federalregister.gov

The Commander, First Coast Guard District, has issued a temporary deviation from the regulation governing the operation of the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge across Newtown Creek, mile 1.3, at New York City, New York. The deviation is necessary to facilitate bridge painting operations. Under this temporary deviation, the bridge may remain in the closed position for various times up to six days at a time during a four month period.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

From the sound of it, the main inconvenience will be felt by the maritime community, as the bridge repair will render the drawbridge static for as long as six days at a pop between May and September.

For drivers, and this is an incredibly busy span, one suspects that there will be traffic tie ups and lane closures but this is conjecture based solely on the behavioral and occupational patterns exhibited and displayed by DOT crews and their contractors on other projects around the City.

One suspects that the four day windows when the draw bridge is open for “business as usual” shall also witness a higher than normal number of bridge openings, which is good for me, of course as lots and lots of tugboats will be lined up along the Creek.

also from federalregister.gov

The bridge owner, New York City Department of Transportation, requested multiple six day closure periods between May 1, 2013 and September 30, 2013, to facilitate bridge painting operation at the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge. Each six day closure period will be followed with four days of normal bridge operations. The exact time and dates of each six day closure period will be announced in the Local Notice to Mariners and also with a Broadcast Notice to Mariners at least two weeks in advance of each closure period. This temporary deviation will be in effect from May 1, 2013 through September 30, 2013.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

C’est la vie, life in the big city, and what can you do about it anyway?

Such maintenance is a necessary inconvenience to keep the structure from rotting away into a corroded heap. The waters of the Newtown Creek, just like the East River, are brackish. Salt is the natural enemy of steel and no one wishes to see a traffic mess like the one created by the 1987 rebuild of the bridge occur anytime soon.

Additionally, although I imagine that the Public Art Commission will approve the continued usage of “Aluminum Green” paints for the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge, I would suggest that using “Pulaski Red” all the way back to the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge would visually unite and “Brand” the Bridges of Newtown Creek.

from nyc.gov

The first bridge on this site, a drawbridge known as the Blissville, was built in the 1850’s. It was succeeded by three other bridges before a new one was completed in March 1900 at a cost of $58,519. That bridge received extensive repairs after a fire in 1919 damaged parts of the center pier fender, the southerly abutment, and the superstructure. Until that time, the bridge had also carried tracks of the Long Island Rail Road. The current bridge was built in 1987.

Also: Upcoming Tours!

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 now on sale.

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.

marshy shore

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“follow” me on Twitter at @newtownpentacle

- photo by Mitch Waxman

My fascination with the Sunnyside Yards here in Long Island City is well known, and observation of the modifications to the place demanded by the East Side Access project have been eagerly and enthusiastically observed and recorded accordingly. On this particular afternoon, the esoteric bit of kit on display for the discerning enthusiast was a truck adapted for life and transit upon the railroad tracks. The particular occupation of this vehicle is somewhat beyond me, with a singular observation that it seemed cool and was manufactured by a company called Brandt.

from wikipedia

The Canadian company Brandt has also converted large truck tractor units for use as locomotives that can move by road to where they are needed. Still mostly used for permanent way maintenance, they can also be employed as thunderbird (rescue) locomotives or even used in normal service, where they are suitable for smaller operators.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Nothing short of byzantine, the operational engineering of this project must be a devilish conundrum. Imagine the combined challenge of rebuilding, and in some cases installing new capability, to one of the busiest rail yards on Earth without disrupting its function. The new installation part of that is adding an additional track, including truss bridges flown over local and quite residential streets, which will fundamentally change the flow of traffic along the entire northeastern United States and parts of Canada while hundreds of passenger trains whizz by as they move between Manhattan and Long Island.

from wikipedia

Extending between Sunnyside, Queens, and Grand Central, the project will route the LIRR from its Main Line through new track connections in Sunnyside Yard and through the lower level of the existing 63rd Street Tunnel under the East River. In Manhattan, a new tunnel will begin at the western end of the 63rd Street Tunnel at Second Avenue, curving south under Park Avenue and entering a new LIRR terminal beneath Grand Central.

Current plans call for 24-trains-per-hour service to Grand Central during peak morning hours, with an estimated 162,000 passenger trips to and from Grand Central on an average weekday. Connections to AirTrain JFK at Jamaica Station in Jamaica, Queens, will facilitate travel to John F. Kennedy International Airport from the East Side of Manhattan.

A new LIRR train station in Sunnyside at Queens Boulevard and Skillman Avenue along the Northeast Corridor (which the LIRR uses to get into Pennsylvania Station) will provide one-stop access for area residents to Midtown Manhattan. The station may spur economic development and growth in Long Island City.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The specific occupation of this vehicle- given the small crane rig on its bed might be defined as a rail tie loader- but I’ve been excoriated for guessing when it come to the railroad before so if one of you might know for sure, please speak up in the comments section. There are large segments of pre assembled track and sleepers nearby the device, it should be mentioned. This sort of thing is part of the reason that I carry a camera with me whenever I’m transversing the concrete devastations of Western Queens, you never know what you might see.

Also: Upcoming Tours!

A free event, “Watch Wildlife on Maspeth Creek with NCA and DEC!” – Friday, April 26
Meetup at Maspeth Creek at 1 p.m., for more information visit newtowncreekalliance.org.

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 now on sale.

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.

splendid perfection

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“follow” me on Twitter at @newtownpentacle

- photo by Mitch Waxman

These gentlemen were observed recently, consumed by their labors fulfilling the Real Estate Industrial Complex’s dream of maximizing the urban density and population of Astoria.

As you can see, one of the fellows on this scaffold is leaning into his work, stretching his arm and twisting his spine in a manner which OSHA inspectors would likely disapprove of. The two men, and what would appear to be buckets of ready mix cement, are perched on a pedestal of three boards that are supported by the steel structure. Certain past occupations, jobs held when one was a younger and more vital narrator, demanded clamboring onto similar scaffolds and I can report that they are shaky albeit stable structures.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Even a small vibration, such as dropping a tool or merely the action of shifting weight from one foot to the other, will make these temporary and quite modular structures quiver and rattle.

Climbing up is simple, but descent leads to uncertainty and doubt when the towering temporary structure begins to rattle and groan. They are pretty safe, however, unless something or something drops from the platform. That can be messy.

I’ve always been a bit too prissy for this sort of work, not physically strong enough for the demands of such occupation, but my Dad wasn’t. The Old Man was forced to do a lot of stupid things at work, and more than once he would suddenly appear in the family home, back in the Flatlands, covered in blood and displaying torn clothing. All he would say would be “go get your mother,” followed by “go tell your Aunt to call your Uncle at work and tell him to take us at Maimonides (hospital.) Didn’t happen often, but when Pop came home at 11:30 a.m., either somebody fell of the scaffold or he did.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Never quite clear why the Old Man always had my Uncle drive him from the Flatlands to Borough Park for emergency repairs, but this would happen whenever he fell off a ladder or ran afoul of some mechanized tool. Once, he even had a pail of Lye splash into his face and he was blind for a few months. It wasn’t all the time, of course, but often enough. Dad wasn’t in a Union, and those injuries of his just kind of came with the chaotic environment of the work place. Such bad familial fortune made me keenly aware of the dangerous world inhabited by the “Working Guys,” and it shreds me when I see two laborers working like this. One of their kids is likely going to be told “go get your mother.”

That shape is the outline of a demolished house.

These guys are three stories over where the sidewalk should be and working without a wire. One of my neighbors is a Union guy and he sets up safety cones when unloading groceries from his car.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Excesses and corrupt practices in the world of Organized Labor are many, and varied, but here’s where the Union guys shine. First thing any of them do at work is put on a hard hat, goggles, and work shoes. They also would never, ever, do this without tying themselves off to a harness. Likely, they would insist on the use of some sort of specialized machine to raise and lower a work platform, and demand to use “best practice” techniques in completing the work- not because they want it to be expensive but because they want to do it right.

They wouldn’t be reaching out over a three story drop and splashing concrete around like Jackson Pollock. Not without a guy from the bucket winchers regional, 2 guys from the trowelers local 6, somebody to hold a caution sign, a crew from platform handlers national, and a few carpenters.

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 10, 2013 at 12:55 am

humanless region

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

As one might have observed in recent media reports, the Mayor of New York City and certain hand picked lieutenants and allies deployed the “golden shovels” and officially “broke ground” at the so called Hunters Point South project in Long Island City. Funny, as construction has been going on around here for a while, mainly on improving the archaic sewer and water system.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

On second street, there is a long ditch currently extant which reveals part of this work. Much of what is happening around here, I am led to believe, is closer to the East River. This assertion is easily proven if one is a customer of the East River Ferry, as the fence line one follows to the dock winds its way along the early phases of the construction site where this grandiose plumbing is being installed.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Spongy, the soil at Hunters Point has seen a lot of industrial tenants come and go over the centuries. At the penultimate southern terminus of the street is the notorious Newtown Creek, to the west is the squamous East River- which was known as the River of Sound to ancient mariners. Interestingly enough- the ground water, or at least the bits of it which have percolated into this pit, is not dissimilar in color or appearance to the very end of the Newtown Creek’s distant tributary English Kills in Bushwick.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Surprisingly, the “layer cake” normally observed in Long Island City street repairs was not visible. Like lower Manhattan and Downtown Brooklyn, the streets are several centuries deep, and one will often see several layers of different pavement technologies on display. If one is very lucky and the street is very old- a layer of compacted and oiled earth, capped by a white chalky substance surmounted by a layer or two of gravel which lies under Belgian Blocks then cement and tar and then concrete and asphalt might be observed.

I’ve got a shot or two from Queens Plaza in which this layer cake is obviously encountered, for instance.

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