The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘Roosevelt Island’ Category

noxiously abroad

with 2 comments

Look at me, I’m as helpless as a kitten up a tree.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Last Saturday, one found himself in the company of Craig Nunn and his Shorewalkers tour group running around LIC in a deep fog. The so called Polar Vortex had dissipated, and the abnormally cold water and frozen ground suddenly found themselves interacting with air that had suddenly grown 30-40 degrees warmer than that which had been circulating formerly.

The result: a whole pile of fog.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

These shots were gathered down at the East River shoreline, although you’d hardly recognize it. Manhattan was virtually obscured, and much of it seemed to have disappeared entirely, which is in many ways a dream come true for one such as myself.

 

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Queensboro, which is hard to miss normally, was relegated down to a mere shadow in the mist. Passerby, here in Tower Town, were heard to mention that they perceived something was moving about in the fog – something huge. Some thought it might be the Circle Line or some other large vessel.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Roosevelt Island’s southern extent was positively gothic in appearance. The fog was behaving in the manner of clouds, as observed from a high altitude plane, rising and falling with the tepid breeze and threading between tree and building.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Four Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island, newly constructed, was nicely framed by the clouds of moisture. My camera was getting soaked while shooting, incidentally, and I had to retire it to the saftey of my camera bag shortly after capturing these shots.

Oy, it was so humid.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 14, 2014 at 7:30 am

regular pulsations

with one comment

In today’s post, more cast off clothing.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Whilst enacting my seemingly penitential and quite obligatory weekly walk to Greenpoint, this time for a Newtown Creek CAG meeting last week, a humble narrator was on the lookout for more examples of the “single shoe phenomena.” Oddly, one hasn’t witnessed a distaff member of a mated pair adorning the roadside middens in a few weeks. Back during the summer, it was difficult not to trip over one of them every time one left the illusion of safety offered by ones own rooms.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Opposite Calvary, this item was spotted instead, which appears to be a ladies undergarment, cast off to the mercies of Greenpoint Avenue. This is strange to me, as Our Lady of the Pentacle has explained to me on numerous occasions that such garments are quite costly.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The manner in which my brain functions demands that I attempt to explain things away, automatically generating a logical progression of probable events to explain the things I see.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Adolescent revelry comes to mind, with images of some freewheeling band of loose women and liquor fed boasting. Alternatively, darker scenarios form, but this is a family blog and salacious speculation is not the Newtown Pentacle way.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 28, 2013 at 10:24 am

general tension

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Note: I received a few corrections from Judy Berdy of the Roosevelt Island Historical Society on this post after it was published, special thanks for her generosity in sharing with us her vast knowledge. Please visit the link above for more on R.I.H.S.

My original statements, when “slashed” will be followed by corrections in red.

As always, when I get something wrong, corrections and additions are welcomed.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Somehow, the Roosevelt Island Bridge has never been examined by this, your Newtown Pentacle.

An omission, but to be fair the tiny span is a bit overshadowed by it’s spectacular neighbors (Queensboro, Triborough, and Hellgate) and half hidden behind a power plant. Not content to leaving her standing at the edge of the ballroom any longer, lets invite her to the dance.

from nyc.gov

The Roosevelt Island Bridge is a tower drive, vertical lift, movable bridge across the East Channel of the East River between the borough of Queens and Roosevelt Island, New York City. The span length is 418 feet. It was known as the Welfare Island Bridge when it was first opened to traffic in 1955. The bridge is the only means of vehicular access to Roosevelt Island. Prior to construction, the bridge carried two 17-foot lanes of vehicular traffic and a 6-foot sidewalk. The bridge is used by both pedestrians and vehicles with increased volume during rush hours. The Queens approach begins at the intersection of Vernon Boulevard and 36th Avenue.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Blackwell’s Island, later known as Welfare Island, was where you went when they “sent you up the river”.

both a regular commenter and R.I.H.S. disagree with me on “up the river” saying that it indicated Sing Sing prison and the river in question is the Hudson. Alternatively, I’ve got multiple references in the post revolutionary to civil war era that refers to Blackwell’s in this context.  

The New York City government had a well established series of poor houses, prisons, and mental institutions here. Access to the island was strictly by boat until 21 years after the Queensboro bridge was erected in 1909, and an elevator system was built to carry trucks and other motor vehicles from its heights down to the Island in 1930  about 1916.

R.I.H.S. says: The Ferry Operated Until 1957 From 78 St And The FDR Drive.

This proved inadequate.

from nycroads.com

Initially, access to Welfare Island had been through a series of ferries from Manhattan and Queens. In 1930, a four-cab elevator service began between the lower deck of the Queensboro (59th Street) Bridge and the island. The service, which had served 230,000 cars per year by the early 1950’s, provided the only public connection to Welfare Island.

The increasing traffic needs to and from Welfare Island, as well as growing congestion on the Queensboro Bridge, prompted the New York City Department of Public Works to propose a new vertical-lift crossing between Queens and Welfare Island. After initial resistance from the New York City Council, which doubted that the $6.5 million span would carry enough traffic to justify its cost, construction of the Roosevelt Island Bridge (then named the Welfare Island Bridge) began on March 17, 1952.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Hopelessly overcrowded and causing delays on Mighty Queensboro, the Depression era elevator system needed to be augmented.

Accordingly the City constructed the Welfare Island Bridge in 1955 to provide additional access. The elevator system on Queensboro stuck around for a few more years, but was eventually done away with around 1970.

Construction on the Welfare Island Bridge began in 1951.

from wikipedia

Roosevelt Island, known as Welfare Island from 1921 to 1973, and before that Blackwell’s Island, is a narrow island in the East River of New York City. It lies between the island of Manhattan to its west and the borough of Queens to its east. Running from Manhattan’s East 46th to East 85th streets, it is about two miles (3 km) long, with a maximum width of 800 feet (240 m), and a total area of 147 acres (0.59 km2). The island is part of the Borough of Manhattan (New York County). Together with Mill Rock, Roosevelt Island constitutes Manhattan’s Census Tract 238, which has a land area of 0.279 sq mi (0.72 km2). and had a population of 9,520 in 2000 according to the US Census. The Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation estimated its population was about 12,000 in 2007.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Well known for excess and abuse, the institutional system on Welfare Island came crashing down in the years following the second world war, and was largely abandoned by the 1960’s, when the Manhattan establishment sought better uses for Welfare Island. There was a “branding” issue to be solved, of course, as “Welfare Island” was synonymous with “Mad House” and or “Prison” for several generations of New Yorkers.

R.I.H.S. says: Blackwell’s Island name was changed to Welfare Island in 1921. Welfare to roosevelt in 1973. The bad reputation came in the late 1800’s to 1920’s thereby changing name to Welfare Island.

In 1973, they decided to call it Roosevelt Island instead.

from freeclassicaudiobooks.com

In 1887 Nellie Bly, one of the first female newspaper writers, and a young reporter who would soon go on to make a career for herself as an investigative journalist and stunt reporter, had herself committed to the Blackwell’s Island Insane Asylum in New York. Her purpose was to discover what life was like for those who had been deemed insane. She was surprised to discover the depth of mistreatment of the patients. Partially as a result of her reporting, more money was allocated to the asylum and reforms were put into place.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Like the nearby Pulaski Bridge over Newtown Creek, which was erected in the same era, Frederick H. Zurmuhlen of the Dept. of Public Works oversaw the design and construction of the Welfare Island Bridge. One of the unsung men who built the modern city, Zurmuhlen served under three mayors.

The Welfare Island Bridge opened, officially, on May 18, 1955.

from wikipedia

Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation was created by New York State in 1984 to manage development and operations of Roosevelt Island. Before RIOC there existed other state agencies which ran the island’s day-to-day operations such as the Welfare Island Development Corporation and later the Roosevelt Island Development Corporation. The first RIOC Board and President were appointed by the Governor in 1986.

The New York State Urban Development Corporation (UDC) operated New York City’s Welfare Island, as Roosevelt Island was previously known, prior to RIOC. Development of the island was based on the principles of urban “new communities” under President Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” programs of the 1960s and early 1970s, and development of the “new” community there was authorized by the 99-year ground lease and accompanying General Development Plan (GDP) agreed upon by New York City and New York State in 1969. The NY State GDP, which has been amended from time to time, provides for the development of housing, shops and community facilities for a mixed-income, handicap-accessible residential neighborhood.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Of course, over on the Queens coast, the bridge has another overwhelming neighbor, the Ravenswood Power Plant- known to longtime New Yorkers simply as “Big Allis”.

for more on Big Allis check out this Newtown Pentacle posting from June of 2009-

Big Allis is not in the Land of the Lost… or how I learned to stop worrying and love Ravenswood #3

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The Welfare Island Bridge, known to modernity as the Roosevelt Island Bridge, has recently undergone a refurbishment and makeover. Much was made of the cosmetic improvements to the span, but the reality of the investment was a determination that in case of a seismic event- which the City of New York is long overdue for- the Bridge would suffer catastrophic damage.

A massive earthquake is one of the unspoken horrors which the City government has been quietly planning for, something which the Mayor’s office would be applauded for were it more widely known. A tip of the hat goes out to the municipal engineers and planners for both their discretion and the secretive work which they have been performing.

A highly technical description of NYC’s earthquake risk factors, prepared in 1998 by the NY State DOT, can be accessed here.

from wikipedia

Big Allis, formally known as Ravenswood No. 3, is a giant electric power generator originally commissioned by Consolidated Edison Company (ConEd) and built by the Allis-Chalmers Corporation in 1965. Currently owned by Transcanada Corp., it is located on 36th Avenue and Vernon Boulevard in western Queens, New York.

During 1963, Allis-Chalmers announced that ConEd had ordered the “world’s first MILLION-KILOWATT unit…big enough to serve 3,000,000 people.” This sheer scale helped the plant become popularly known as “Big Allis”.

At the time of its installation, it was the world’s largest steam energy generating facility. It is located on the Ravenswood site, consisting of Units 1, 2, 3 and 4, as well as several small Gas Turbines (GTs), and an oil depot. The site overall produces about 2,500 MW, or approximately 20% of New York City’s current energy needs. The current installed capacity of Big Allis is around 980 MW.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The Roosevelt Island Bridge makes landfall on the Long Island at Vernon Avenue and 36th street, incidentally.

Written by Mitch Waxman

January 24, 2012 at 12:15 am

warnings and prophecies

with one comment

2011’s Greatest Hits:

- photo by Mitch Waxman

In January of 2011, while walking along in knee deep snow, your humble narrator happened across this enigmatic and somehow familiar item sitting in a drift at the NYC S.E.M./Signals Street Light Yard of the DOT at 37th avenue near the Sunnyside and Astoria border. It looked familiar to me, but I didn’t recognize it for what it was until sharp eyed reader TJ Connick suggested that this might be the long missing Light Stanchion which once adorned the Queensboro Bridge’s Manhattan landing.

These two posts: “an odd impulse“, and “wisdom of crowds” discuss the discovery and identification in some detail.

Some good news about this iconic piece of Queens history will be forthcoming, but I’ve been asked to keep it quiet for the moment.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

In February of 2011, “Vapour Soaked” presented a startling concurrence of comparitive detail for the discerning viewer, when the shot above was presented in contrast with a 1920’s shot from The Newtown Creek industrial district of New York City By Merchants’ Association of New York. Industrial Bureau, 1921″, (courtesy Google Books).

Admittedly, not quite as earth shaking as January’s news, but cool nevertheless. I really like these “now and then” shots, expect more of the same to come your way in the future.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

In March of 2011, “first, Calvary” discussed the epic (for me) quest to find a proverbial “needle in a haystack” within First Calvary Cemetery- the grave of its very first interment, an Irish woman named Esther Ennis who died in 1848. I have spent an enormous amount of time searching for this spot, where Dagger John Hughes first consecrated the soil of Newtown.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

In April of 2011, the world lost one of its best people and my official “partner in crime”, Bernard Ente.

He was ill for awhile, but asked me to keep the severity of things quiet. He passed in the beginning of April, and one of the last requests he made of me (along with “taking care” of certain people) was to continue what he had started along the Newtown Creek and all around NY Harbor.

This was when I had to step forward, up my game, and attempt to fill a pair of gargantuan boots. Frankly, I’m not even half of who he was, but I’m trying. That’s when I officially stepped forward and began introducing myself as a representative of Newtown Creek Alliance, and joined the Working Harbor Committee- two organizations which Bernie was committed to. I’m still trying to wrap my head around his loss.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

In May of 2011, while attempting to come to terms with my new roles in both organizations, it was decided that a fitting tribute to our fallen comrade would be the continuance of his annual “Newtown Creek Cruises” and the date of May 21 was set for the event. An incredible learning experience, the success of the voyage would not have been possible without the tutelage of WHC’s John Doswell and Meg Black, NCA’s Katie Schmid, or especially the aid of “Our Lady of the Pentacle” and the Newtown Pentacle’s stalwart far eastern correspondent: Armstrong.

Funny moments from during this period included the question “Whom do you call to get a drawbridge in NYC to open for you?”.

During this time, I also became involved with Forgotten-NY’s Kevin Walsh and Greater Astoria Historical Society’s Richard Melnick and their ambitious schedule of historical tours.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

In June of 2011, the earliest Newtown Creek Chemical Factory which I’ve been able to find in the historical record, so far, was explored in the post “lined with sorrow“- describing “the Bushwick Chemical Works of M. Kalbfleisch & Sons”.

Additionally, my “Newtown Creek Magic Lantern Show” was presented to a sold out and standing room only crowd at the Greater Astoria Historical Society.

This was also the beginning of a period which has persisted all year- in which my efforts of behalf of the various organizations and political causes which I’m advocating for had reduced my output to a mere 15 or fewer postings a month.

All attempts are underway to remedy this situation in 2012, and apologies are offered.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

In July of 2011, another Newtown Creek boat tour was conducted, this time for the Metropolitan Water Alliance’s “City of Water Day”. The “Newtown Creek Magic Lantern Show” was also performed at the Admiral’s House for a packed room.

Additionally, my so called “Grand Walk” was presented in six postings. This was an attempt to follow a 19th century journey from the Bloody Sixth Ward, Manhattan’s notorious Five Points District, to Calvary Cemetery in Queens. Once, this would have been a straightforward endeavor involving minimal connections of Trolley and Ferry, but today one just has to walk. These were certainly not terribly popular posts, but are noteworthy for the hidden and occluded horde of forgotten New York history which they carry.

From the last of these posts, titled “suitable apparatus“- “As the redolent cargo of my camera card revealed- this “Grand Walk”, a panic induced marathon which carried your humble narrator across the East River from St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral in Manhattan into Williamsburg and up Grand Street to Maspeth and the baroque intrigues of the Newtown Creek- wound down into it’s final steps on Laurel Hill Blvd.”

- photo by Mitch Waxman

In August of 2011, “the dark moor” presented intriguing aerial views of the Newtown Creek Watershed, and “sinister exultation” shared the incredible sight of an Amtrak train on fire at the Hunters Point Avenue station in Long Island City. “revel and chaff” explored the aftermath of Hurricane Irene in LIC’s Zone A, and an extraordinary small boat journey around Dutch Kills was detailed in: “ponderous and forbidding“, “ethereal character“, “pillars and niches“, and “another aperture“.

This was an incredible month.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

In September of 2011, a posting called “uncommented masonry” offered this declaration:

” By 1915, there approximately 40,000 automotive trucks plying the streets of New York City.

What’s surprising is that 25% of them were electric.

Lords and ladies of Newtown, I present to you the last mortal remains of the General Electric Vehicle Company, 30-28 Starr Avenue, Long Island City- manufacturer of a substantial number of those electrical trucks.”

I’m particularly fond of this post, as this was a wholly forgotten moment of Newtown Creek and industrial history which I was able to reveal. Organically born, it was discovered in the course of other research, and I believed at the time that it was going to be the biggest story that I would present all year about Blissville.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

In October of 2011, a trio of Newtown Creek Tours (two public and one for educators) were accomplished. The public tours were full to capacity, as were the Open House New York tours I conducted on the 15th and 16th of that Month. Also, the Metropolitan Water Alliance invited me to photograph their “Parade of Boats” on October 11th, and I got the shot below of the FDNY Fireboat 343.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

- photo by Mitch Waxman

In November of 2011, a visit to Lovecraft Country in Brooklyn was described in “frightful pull“, and “vague stones and symbols” came pretty close to answering certain mysteries associated with the sky flung Miller Building found at the foot of the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge in Brooklyn.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

A December 2011 post titled “An Oil spill… in Queens” broke the news that petroleum products are seeping out of the bulkheads of Newtown Creek, this time along the Northern shoreline, which lies in the Queens neighborhood of Blissville.

Rest assured that your Newtown Pentacle is on top of the story of “the Blissville Oil Spill”, lords and ladies of Newtown, and will bring you breaking news as it develops in 2012.

quite submerged

with one comment

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Today, I’m going to be uncharacteristically quiet, it’s all about the pictures. I was dreaming about flying again, in the manner of a super hero, and pulled these shots (some of which you’ve seen in other posts) together.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Whenever I can attain some altitude, an attempt is made to record it, especially in the low lying areas of western Queens and North Brooklyn. In this shot, it was the Roosevelt Island Tram which elevated my point of view.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Attempts and entreaties have been made- but so far- nobody in Long Island City has offered me roof or high floor access to shoot from one of the tower buildings. Haven’t asked anyone on Roosevelt Island yet, but the views of Queensboro and the East River must be glorious at night from there.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

I have been to the Ravell Hotel roof, which is in the lower right hand corner of the shot, which offers amazing views of the bridge and whose vantage lines up with the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself for “Manhattanhenge“.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

In Long Island City, the industrial zones are typically low lying in character, with few buildings exceeding 4 stories. Extreme reticence has been exhibited by property owners, when approached with requests of photographic access to their roofs or grounds. Insurance liability is the usual reply.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The ultimate viewing platform, of course, would be from the Citibank Megalith. Like Odin on his hildskalf, one might observe the entire world from up there, seeing the in the perspective of that thing in its summit which cannot possibly exist and does not think or breathe, yet hungers.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

From up there, the entire soup bowl of New York Harbor is available for viewing. The megalith is visible from many faraway points in the harbor, and if you can see it- it can see you. On a clear day, the thing in its summit (were it to exist) can see the Narrows and Long Island Sound and Jamaica Bay and the Hudson.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Terrestrial and aquatic vantages have been my only succor in recent months, but an urge to look down from above is upon me, and scry the ancient patterns of life which invisibly govern the present City.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Probably why I’m dreaming of flying…

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