The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

shewing much

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A last look at Fresh Kills Park, at sunset.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The burning thermonuclear eye of god itself is a fixed point in time and space, of course, and as Fresh Kills rotated out of its view, the lighting experienced at this bold experiment in environmental remediation and reclamation being conducted by the NYC Parks Dept. and the DSNY became dramatic and somewhat theatrical.

As described previously, Fresh Kills park is being constructed atop the 2,200 acre garbage dump and landfill which NYC operated between 1947 and 2001 on Staten Island. The Fresh Kills landfill is the largest man made object upon the earth, with hills (or mounds) that rise from 90 to 225 feet above surrounding terrain.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the interesting things which were observed here, there were many, was the way that water was beginning to chart its own course in the root beds of the chest high grasses which occluded the manufactured ground. There were several species of grasses growing here which, as I was informed, are all “volunteers” or self seeded. All this green blew in on the wind, apparently.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

A stitched panorama from a high elevation, looking over the industrial landscape of New Jersey just beyond the Arthur Kill. I believe that’s Linden, just beyond the hill, and we are looking up the New Jersey Turnpike corridor towards Newark. If you click the image, it will bring you to progressively larger incarnations of it at Flickr, btw.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

This is the Fresh Kills waterway itself, a small tidal strait which breaks off of the larger and quite industrial Arthur Kill. Notice the soft edges and natural looking mud flats along the shoreline? Many of the environmentally focused people I speak to about my beloved Newtown Creek describe the end stage of the superfund process as leaving parts of the Creek (Dutch Kills and Maspeth Creek in particular) in a similar condition.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Nearly dark, but one had a few last shots that needed capturing. The pole to the left of the shot has an Osprey nest crowning it. Seeing an Osprey in NYC is a bit like spotting a unicorn, and in this shot there are three juveniles in the nest and mama is returning from the hunt. She’s a bit blurred, but this is a handheld shot at about a thirtieth of second, so I’m just happy that I was able to get a crisp focus in what was functionally total darkness.

Tomorrow, back to Queens.

also – I’m required to state the following, regarding the access which allowed me to capture these photos – “Courtesy of the City of New York. NYC Parks and the Freshkills Park Alliance have made access available for the production of this artwork.” I’m also required to offer this link to freshkillspark.org and inform that inquiries regarding the park are best sent to freshkillspark@parks.nyc.gov

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

This weekend-

Saturday, August 16th, LIC’s Modern Corridor
With Atlas Obscura, click here for tickets and more info.

Sunday, August 17th, 13 Steps Around Dutch Kills
With Brooklyn Brainery, click here for tickets and more info.

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 12, 2014 at 1:00 pm

grassy banks

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More from Fresh Kills Park.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned last week, an opportunity to visit Staten Island’s Fresh Kills popped up, and your humble narrator eagerly hurtled across land and water to get there. The Parks Dept. of our great city was conducting what they described as a “VIP photographers tour” and I was lucky enough to be included. For those of you unfamiliar with the place, the park is being constructed atop the 2,200 acre garbage dump and landfill which NYC operated between 1947 and 2001. The Fresh Kills landfill is the largest man made object upon the earth, with hills (or mounds) that rise from 90 to 225 feet above surrounding terrain.

Basically, it’s Fresh Kills and the Great Wall of China in the top spot of “big,” with the Pyramids of Egypt and the Hoover Dam barely making the list.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The views from atop one of the great berms are incredible, with the flood plains of New Jersey and their petroleum industries found just beyond the Arthur Kill ringing the horizon. I think that everyone knows, at this point in time, that “kill” is Dutch for creek, but I’ll throw that out for the uninformed. The way that the decadent Dutch used the word indicates a slow moving or shallow tidal water body.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The West Shore Expressway rolling out towards the Outerbridge Crossing is pictured above, which gives you some idea of the actual elevation which Fresh Kills offers to visitors. The neighborhood of Travis is nearby, but this used to be Linoleumville, once upon a time before Robert Moses.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned, New Jersey’s industrial sections are nicely revealed from up here. That looks like the complex of petroleum refining and distributing facilities along the New Jersey Turnpike to me, the ones whose many smokestacks cause most passing drivers to roll up their car windows – even on very warm days.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Pictured above is a Flare Station, with Port Elizabeth Newark’s cargo cranes rising behind it. The operation at this building is all about the Methane produced by the buried landfill, and controlling it. The Flare Stations occasionally burn off the volatile gas when its too abundant. After last week’s post, I was asked about the disposition of the methane, and my understanding is that the DSNY and NYC Parks dept. have a relationship with an energy company which harvests the so called “natural gas” for resale to the public.

Tomorrow – sunset at Fresh Kills.

also – I’m required to state the following, regarding the access which allowed me to capture these photos – “Courtesy of the City of New York. NYC Parks and the Freshkills Park Alliance have made access available for the production of this artwork.” I’m also required to offer this link to freshkillspark.org and inform that inquiries regarding the park are best sent to freshkillspark@parks.nyc.gov

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

This weekend-

Saturday, August 16th, LIC’s Modern Corridor
With Atlas Obscura, click here for tickets and more info.

Sunday, August 17th, 13 Steps Around Dutch Kills
With Brooklyn Brainery, click here for tickets and more info.

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 11, 2014 at 1:00 pm

old garden

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You need to get out of the City, every now and then, and commune with nature.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned in yesterday’s post, a journey to Staten Island was on the menu last weekend. After accomplishing the journey from Astoria to St. George, one found himself whisked away by a municipal vehicle. Not an ambulance driven by men in white coats nor a paddy wagon driven by the fellows in blue shirts, as you might expect, this time it was a white van with a green leaf logo on the side. The NYC Parks Dept. owned this van.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

At our destination, which is vouchsafed by security and controlled access, a somewhat bucolic landscape was encountered. It was sweet smelling, bursting with grasses and trees, and there were critters of all descriptions bounding about. There were literally white tail deer popping in and out of view, ospreys turning in the sky, and bunnies leaping. This was no ordinary meadow, however. This is the built environment you’re looking at, and this was formerly considered one of the worst places upon the entire Earth, a place which my beloved Newtown Creek was actually preferable to.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The only thing that betrays what this spot once was are the bits of methane handling, and sampling, equipment which protrude out of the verge.

Lords and Ladies, welcome to the still under construction Fresh Kills Park, which sits atop the 2,200 acre garbage dump and landfill which NYC operated between 1947 and 2001. The Fresh Kills landfill is the largest man made object upon the entire planet, with hills (or mounds) that rise from 90 to 225 feet above the surrounding terrain.

My kind of place, and luckily, I got invited in to take a few photos.

also – I’m required to state the following, regarding the access which allowed me to capture these photos – “Courtesy of the City of New York. NYC Parks and the Freshkills Park Alliance have made access available for the production of this artwork.” I’m also required to offer this link to freshkillspark.org and inform that inquiries regarding the park are best sent to freshkillspark@parks.nyc.gov

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 8, 2014 at 11:00 am

lie outstretched

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An evening trip to Staten Island.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

For reasons that will become clear in later postings, last Saturday night, one had to get out to… Staten Island. The near to final leg of the journey is quite straightforward, as it occurs on the most reliable of all of NYC’s mass transit systems – the Staten Island Ferry. Manifest joy, however, is repeatedly encountered when negotiating the weekend subways with their schedule of FastTrack repairs.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

As you may recall, the weather was threatening all day, and began to clear up in the afternoon. The folks who control and steward my eventual destination gave the green light for a visit, based on meteorological advice from NOAA, and off a humble narrator went. The views from the ferry never disappoint, there’s always something going on in NY Harbor worth pointing a camera at.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Having made my way to Staten Island, the St. George Ferry Terminal is pictured above, one had a few moments of panic while looking for the next connection I needed to make – to a waiting automobile which would take me the rest of the way. Hold tight, lords and ladies – for tomorrow I’ll bring you to someplace entirely new.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 7, 2014 at 11:23 am

greatest suddenness

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Vas doin on English Kills, boychik, mit the bubbles?

- photo by Mitch Waxman

DUMABO. Down Under the Metropolitan Bridge Onramp, is a spot that bisects the pathway of the so called “industrial Canals of Brooklyn” or English Kills. The darkest thicket of the troubled Newtown Creek, English Kills is largely isolated from casual perusal by the electorate by a continuous shield wall of industrial buildings, which means that what happens on the water is usually commented on by an unlucky few such as myself. The engineered path that the water flows through follows the Brooklyn street grid, which creates a series of right angle turns that impede the tidal actions of the East River which is some 3 miles from here.

This adherence to the street grid, and the hydrological issues it introduces, has caused huge accretions of the so called “Black Mayonnaise” sediments to agglutinate. This sedimentation, along with the summer heat, causes the water to be “anoxic,” meaning that it often carries little or no dissolved oxygen. This kills off any aquatic life that may have wandered back here, and promulgates the colonies of sewage bacteria in the water whose aromatic exhalations remind one of rotting chicken eggs.

The sewage bacteria is provided by the many CSO’s (Combined Sewer Outfalls) found along the waterway.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

To combat these anoxic conditions, the ever reliable NYC DEP (in concert with the state DEC) have installed an aeration system. Basically a giant pipe through which pressurized air is pumped, the thing operates in the same manner as a bubble wand on your aquarium fish tank. Disturbing the surface allows atmospheric gases like oxygen to become dissolved in the water. The DEP building you’ll notice on Metropolitan Avenue in East Williamsburg that adjoins the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge contains the air compressors.

It all sounds rather logical, as the efforts of engineers often do. Problem is that the sewage bacteria conditions are being caused by the Combined Sewer Outfalls on English Kills, which the DEP engineers are not focusing on. It’s sort of like shitting in a fish tank every day, and attaching more and more aerating bubble wands to combat the conditions being caused, without doing anything about… y’know, not shitting in your aquarium.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Here’s the problem - my pals over at Riverkeeper have voiced MAJOR concerns about this system, and cite a study by M. Elias Dueker which shows that bacterial fauna from English Kills are provided with an opportunity to enter the air via this system. A “Culturable Bacterial Aerosol” as they describe it, is allowed purchase into the atmosphere.

Said organisms can then find a home on any friendly terrestrial surface.

In effect, these bubbles provide a ladder for the worst pathogens in the Newtown creek watershed an opportunity to get up and out of the water. Keeping this sort of bacteria away from the general populace is sort of the mission of the DEP, btw.

from riverkeeper.org

Riverkeeper raised concerns when the city proposed aerating the rest of the creek last spring and asked the DEP to test for pathogens and sewage associated bacteria in the air, which they did not agree to do. Aeration creates bubbles on the water’s surface and is a Band Aid solution to the underlying serious problem of combined sewage overflows. Low oxygen conditions in the creek occur due to sewage contamination and although aeration increases the oxygen level in the water, it does not reduce the amount of sewage or sewage associated bacteria that are dumped into the creek. Riverkeeper has argued that aeration is an ineffective way of addressing the pollution problem and the recent study suggests that it may also negatively impact local air-quality.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Worse still, the aeration system performs its job quite well. Dissolved oxygen levels in English Kills are higher than they used to be. Accordingly, the DEP is planning on expanding the system from English Kills all the way to the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge, more than a mile away.

The pipes are planned to follow the contour of the Queens coastline, of course, because you wouldn’t be able to get away with doing it on the Brooklyn side. This puts Maspeth, and parts of Sunnyside and Blissville, in the path of the pestilent wind which would rise from the loathsome Newtown Creek.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 5, 2014 at 12:25 pm

henceforward have

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Anniversaries, antichrists, and apocalypse.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Something about the centennial mark of the “fin de siécle” made one think about Mt. Zion cemetery, which is pictured in today’s post. The term refers to the end of the 19th century in its literal interpretation, but broader usage of “fin de siécle” is meant to imply the sense of doom which the late 19th century’s artists and academics expressed. They knew it was coming, the end of the age, an apocalypse.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s interpretation and intuition being offered everywhere online today about the century marker for the First World War’s official start. There’s the version of the story which talks about all the war dead, the one where the United States became “America!!!” because of the conflict, and the chestnut about the decline of the European peninsula from its former status as the center of colonial supremacy. The antichrist appeared in Russia, and he raised a godless rogue state from the ashes of the Tsarist form of government.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Personally, I’ve always ascribed to the concept of the “Second Thirty Years War” when describing the state of world affairs between 1914 and 1945, but that period is less “fin de siécle” and more “birth pangs of the modern era,” from our perspective. We know how the story comes out.

The First World War was actually a war of industrial bases when you think about it. Vast international death machines require long logistical supply lines, or so I am told, many of which stretched all the back to my beloved Newtown Creek oddly enough. Given my particular love of the industrial sectors of LIC and Greenpoint surrounding the waterway, which were at their height during WW1, I try to only think of cemeteries when considering the conflict. Keeps me even, and helps hint at why Granpa Alex didn’t ever want to talk about the war.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 4, 2014 at 12:42 pm

states suggested

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Drunkard of the week.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Back to the Kvetching, lords and ladies, and things that are definitively not alright.

This fellow spent a lovely afternoon dozing in the sun, in an obviously inebriate state, at the corner of 41st and Broadway in front of the Loyal order of Moose building. He was sleeping one off, by all appearances. This shot was captured around 6:45 in the evening, but I had spotted him in the same spot earlier in the day, around 2 p.m. Nearly five hours.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

During the late afternoon, and into the early evening, vast numbers of people walked by this man. Mothers and children, old ladies and new immigrants took in the spectacle as they passed by. Hundreds of automobiles stopped at the red light on the corner, with this napping fellow in plain sight and actually illuminated by a setting sun. How many of those cars, I wonder, were driven by the Police?

How is this oft observed behavior in the public space OK, and shouldn’t some member of the Gendarmé have checked to see if this guy was dead or alive?

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The fellow singled out in today’s post is part of a small population of inebriated gentlemen who frequent the Steinway and Broadway intersection. A small population of junkies also seem to be favoring the corner of late, with many encamping themselves at the Library. Anybody who lives hereabouts will tell you this, yet, few complain or “kvetch” about it.

“What can you do about it? Don’t start trouble”- that’s the Astoria motto.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

A shot from around 7:50 or so, when I was making my way back home. This guy actually gets more sleep than I do, by all appearances, and he remained unmolested by the Police or the people in the shops for more than 5 hours. All the while in public view from an intersection. There was a guy sleeping around 2 on the opposite corner, but he had removed himself by the time I came through around 6:45.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

This weekend-

Sunday, August 3rd, Kill Van Kull Walking Tour
With Brooklyn Brainery, click here for tickets and more info.

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 1, 2014 at 2:58 pm

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