The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

arisen another

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Tug Dory at Newtown Creek in today’s post.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Heading over to Greenpoint, which seems to be my occupation sometimes, your humble narrator was utilizing the Pulaski Bridge to cross the malign Newtown Creek. Suddenly, from below, waves began crashing and a vast oblong shape appeared from the void formed by the span.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

This barge likely came from Allocco, an aggregates company based on Kingsland Avenue in Greenpoint. Allocco, by the way, isn’t some fey corporate composite name, rather its a family name. I’ve met members of the eponymous clan, and they’re nice guys. They sort debris into graded materials – sand, gravel etc. for resale. Allocco is one of the few corporations along Newtown Creek who fully utilize their maritime bulkheads, so I’m a fan. What’s being moved around in that barge would require the services of around 30 trucks otherwise.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Never have I seen the Tug Dory on the Creek before. This boat is a bit of a mystery to me, and not much is available on it. Unfortunately, they weren’t displaying their IMO number in a place visible from my vantage, so I’m afraid that all I can tell you is that it’s painted white.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

She may be somewhat anonymous, a pale enigma posed alongside an oblong shape if you will, but Tug Dory still looks pretty good heading out of the Newtown Creek on her way to the East River.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

April 4, 2014 at 11:00 am

second to nothing

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Dredging operations on the Newtown Creek are underway.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

After a couple of false starts and delayed beginnings, DonJon Towing is finally getting busy over on my beloved Creek. The dredging project is designed to provide a maritime channel for a new class of DEP Sludge Boats (see this Newtown Pentacle post from back in January of this year for details on the new boats) which will use a dock on Whale Creek, rather than the current East river facility, to accept the processed material produced by the Newtown Creek Waste Water Treatment Plant in Greenpoint.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

These shots were gathered yesterday, at Whale Creek – a Brooklyn side tributary of Newtown Creek which the sewer plant wraps around.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Unfortunately, due to a busy work schedule and weather issues, I only managed to get there late in the afternoon and missed the action. This little push boat was busily managing the barges into a docking position, however.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The dredging rig was the Delaware Bay, which is a 225 foot long monster commissioned in 2008, and outfitted with a 123 foot long boom and crane.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the actual dredging bucket, which is outfitted with some sort of esoteric gasket system. I’ve never felt pity for a big steel machine before, but… Yuck… this is Newtown Creek.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The whole operation is meant to continue on for about six weeks. The initial phase of it, here on Whale Creek, will only be operating 12 hours a day, but once they work their way out onto the main body of the Creek – probably Tuesday of next week, they will go 24/7.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

This little Survey boat was buzzing about, and I’m told it carried a battery of sonar equipment which allowed visualization of the dredging work in real time. There’s a lot of stuff down there, pipelines and cables and such, for the DonJon crews to watch out for.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

A DEP contractor was on hand performing air quality tests and odor control functions. This was his little weather station.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Also part of this contractors kit was a Hydrogen Sulfide monitor, which measures concentrations of the compound released from the underwater sediments during the dredge process.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s critical, once the operation moves out of Whale Creek and heads west towards the more populated sections of the Creek in Greenpoint and Hunters Point, that you call 311 if you’re being affected by smells or noise. Also, I’ve been told that the NCWWTP Nature Walk will be closed for the weekend, in the name of safety.

If you smell something, say something, and call 311.

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worried faces

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Would it kill you to smile?

- photo by Mitch Waxman

While riding the Subway in New York City, observation of the interesting social behaviors exhibited by the citizenry entertains. There are those who present the “pfft, ain’t no thing” and those who present the “what the hell are you looking at” and also present are the “please, for gods sake, do not notice me” lean. Others pretend to sleep, or stare blankly at the floor (that’s the one which I favor), while a small group of extroverts feel the need to shout and otherwise draw attention unto themselves. Then there’s the buskers.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

There are Mariachi’s, young couples who perpetrate the “gypsy baby” scam, those three kids who dance and perform acrobatics. Worst of all are the religious zealots, whose clumsy attempts at evangelism are enough to drive one into the arms of Satan itself. Skillfully ignoring these buskers and con artists, or not, is what separates the true New Yorker from the tourist. The tourists are the worst, of course, breaking all of the unspoken rules of subway etiquette which “regular” riders subconsciously obey and enforce. Nobody smiles, the MTA has a rule against that.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

My camera is always at the ready whenever entering these concrete bunkers with their pungent atmospheres, and one of the odd things I’ve noticed in recent years is the reaction some have upon seeing the device. Lens cap on and power switch off, they will stare at the camera in the manner one would watch the countdown clock on a bomb. I don’t understand this. Humans, they’re weird, and need to smile more often.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

April 2, 2014 at 10:54 am

un cheval de Troie

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You can’t trust anyone, even France.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

A statue of a one hundred eleven and a half foot tall French chick, with a four and half foot long nose and a thirty five foot waistband, has been greeting all who enter New York Harbor since October of 1886. The thing was shipped here in 350 sections which were contained in 214 crates, which were almost lost in a storm at sea while in transport from France, onboard a French Frigate called “Isère” in 1885. Isère is a river in France, btw, which runs through an area formerly called Dauphiné Viennois, which was the feudal territory controlled by the heirs apparent to the French throne.

The monument was publicly touted as a gift from the nation of France, specifically the Third Republic France, to its fellow Democracy.

As it turns out, the Statue of Liberty was actually a trojan horse.

WWskeletons

- photo via anonymous

News of what’s been happening on Liberty Island has been reaching me since Hurricane Sandy, through confidential informants and whistle blowers in the maritime industrial complex. As you might recall, both the Island and Statue received quite a wallop during the storm. The U.S. Parks Dept. kept the island closed for a longer than expected interval, and growing curiosity found me asking friends and acquaintances what was happening. Many grew pale and said “nothing” while others related a sordid tale.

It seems that Sandy had uncovered human remains which had lain hidden since the 19th century, a fact which the Federal Government wished to keep hidden from the American people for prosaic reasons.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

According to my sources, these human remains were found between the inner and outer layers of copper in Liberté’s skirt. Their condition was skeletal, and all in all 16 individuals were located. By all appearances, with two exceptions, it seemed the men had simply starved to death deep within the Statue of Liberty. The reason that this fantastic sounding story has been officially suppressed involves the uniforms and equipment found with the corpses, which strongly suggests that a small group of French Soldiers had been sent on a commando mission to New York City in 1886 and were hidden away in the Paris manufactured statuary.

The mission? Assassinating President Grover Cleveland on October 28th, 1886.

French_soldiers_in_the_Franco-Prussian_War_1870-71

- photo via Wikipedia

Uniforms and weapons found amongst the human remains are consistent with those used by French Armed Forces during the 1880′s, and include early production models of the Lebel Model 1886 Bolt Action Rifle – a weapon strongly associated with both the Armed Forces of France and the Fusiliers-Marins of the Troupes de marine (that translates into American as Marine Special Forces attached to Naval Special Operations).

So, what did the French have against Grover Cleveland?

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Cleveland was the guy who kept the United States out of the Berlin Conference, which caused colonial France to lose out on getting the good parts of Africa (cotton, rivers, lack of malaria) and allowed Britain and Germany to massively expand onto the continent in its stead. This cost the French a LOT of money.

You didn’t screw around with France back then, and the supposition that a squad of soldiers were sent to assassinate Cleveland on a suicide mission is not altogether crazy for the era. Also, there’s an odd anecdote which suggests that some inside members of this Gaulish conspiracy might have interfered with its execution (and with the execution). 

from wikipedia

A nautical parade began at 12:45 p.m., and President Cleveland embarked on a yacht that took him across the harbor to Bedloe’s Island for the dedication. De Lesseps made the first speech, on behalf of the French committee, followed by the chairman of the New York committee, Senator William M. Evarts.

A French flag draped across the statue’s face was to be lowered to unveil the statue at the close of Evarts’s speech, but Bartholdi mistook a pause as the conclusion and let the flag fall prematurely.

The ensuing cheers put an end to Evarts’s address. President Cleveland spoke next, stating that the statue’s “stream of light shall pierce the darkness of ignorance and man’s oppression until Liberty enlightens the world”.

Bartholdi, observed near the dais, was called upon to speak, but he refused.

Statue of Liberty unveiled, by Edward Moran, courtesy wikipedia

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Written by Mitch Waxman

April 1, 2014 at 11:00 am

shall vex

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A baited trap, in LIC.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Everyone knows about the particular predilection that the Gendarme has for those toroids of fried and sweetened dough which are commonly called Donuts, and it is simply “messed up” that someone seems to using one as bait. Should a hungry constable happen along and happily reach for this confection, what sort of snare might be triggered? Is this a cop trap of some kind? What’s hidden inside that duct or pipe?

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The funny thing about the cop/donut myth is that it really isn’t true. Most of the police officers I’ve met over the years were actually in pretty good shape, and the ones who weren’t in wholesome condition owed it to a love of the brewer’s art rather than that of the baker’s. Still one wonders how many innocent but hungry servants of the realm hereabouts have been ensnared on this LIC block, adjoining Skillman Avenue?

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Commonly held, the mythology about American Police and their love for donuts is reasonably predicated upon the frequent observation of unit cars and uniformed personnel, by the citizenry at large, congregating at locations commonly called “Donut Shops.” Simply answered, even if your job is to drive around a neighborhood for eight hours at a pop, you still need to pee and or buy coffee periodically – an endless cycle in itself – and sharing a common location for such activity allows units to compare notes on the days events. Donut shops are open late, as are the Police. It’s messed up that someone is setting out donut baited snares though, and provides for a worrisome development within this, our Newtown Pentacle.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

March 31, 2014 at 9:30 am

alarmingly low

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Tugboat! There’s a tugboat coming!

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Bemoaning a life lived poorly with a ribald song of lament, your humble narrator found himself crossing the fabulous Pulaski Bridge over Newtown Creek recently, whereupon the appearance of maritime traffic entering the waterway sent a bolt of joy up my crumbling spine.

Even feckless quislings can catch a break sometimes, thought I.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

One was forced to scuttle at double pace across the bridge, in order to not allow the opening of its double bascule mechanisms to visually isolate me from the passing Tugboat.

Occlusion is frustrating, extremely so.

Accordingly, haste was made for the Greenpoint or southern bank of the Newtown Creek.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The NYC DOT, who operate this bridge, will unfortunately not allow me to get close enough to shoot properly, so several lenses were utilized. Swapping out lenses is not something I like to do in a spot like the Pulaski Bridge, where the particulate dust and soot circulating on the air is particularly dense, for fear of allowing contaminants to settle inside the camera itself.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Regardless of risk, a few swaps were made, as I had luckily decided to carry a full kit with me that day. The Tugboat was Vane’s “Hunting Creek.” Hunting Creek has been mentioned here before, in the post “last ounce.”

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Unfortunately, I was quite far from the Tug, and less than ecstatic about the images produced by my “longest” lens. The next upgrade to my photo bag is going to be a good lens with lots of reach, an expensive proposition. Of course, the simple answer to not having a lens with sufficient magnification or optimal resolution is to simply get closer to your subject.

Hunting Creek pulled away, towing a fuel barge to some destination eastwards, but I knew that eventually… she had to come back.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Hunting down anything along Newtown Creek is my speciality, as well as finding the best spot to view it from, so your humble narrator was waiting with a medium reach but high quality lens attached to my camera when Hunting Creek made its way back towards the East River and the greater harbor beyond.

What? I like photographing tugboats.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The warning horns that Pulaski was opening sounded and the tug maneuvered into its course. Tower Town in LIC is really coming along, incidentally, and views like the one following will soon be a happy memory.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

They’ve already blocked out the Chrysler Building. When Greenpoint Landing gets going, we’ll lose Empire State as well.

That’s what I saw on Newtown Creek one day last week, when one set out to cross a bridge and walk about in the radiance of the burning thermonuclear eye of god itself.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

When I was walking home - through Greenpoint - I almost stepped on this flat rat, which kind of ruined my day. Curdling horror notwithstanding, the sight shocked me back into a looming sense of depression and reinstated the familiarly manic state which I was hoping to alleviate via the perambulation across the Pulaski Bridge and the banks of fabled Newtown Creek.

I guess it’s true what they say – “A Feckless Quisling just can’t catch a break these days.” People say that, right?

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2014 Walking Tours

Up Next: 13 Steps across Dutch Kills, at Newtown Creek with Atlas Obscura, Saturday, April 5th – click here for more information and ticketing.

Thirteen Steps across Dutch Kills

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The 2014 Walking Tours begin.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Join Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura for an intense exploration of Newtown Creek’s Dutch Kills tributary - found less than one mile from the East River. Dutch Kills is home to four movable (and one fixed span) bridges, including one of only two retractile bridges remaining in New York City. Dutch Kills is considered to be the central artery of industrial Long Island City and is ringed with enormous factory buildings, titan rail yards - it’s where the industrial revolution actually happened.

Bring your camera, as the tour will be revealing an incredible landscape along this section of the troubled Newtown Creek Watershed.

Be prepared: We’ll be encountering broken pavement, sometimes heavy truck traffic, and moving through a virtual urban desert as we cross the currently undefended border of Brooklyn and Queens. Dress and pack appropriately for hiking, closed toe shoes are highly recommended.

Bathroom opportunities will be found only at the start of the walk, which will be around three hours long and cover approximately three miles of ground.

Meetup – At the Albert E. Short Triangle park found at the corner of Jackson Avenue and 23rd Street in Long Island City, Queens. This is the Court Square MTA station, and served by the 7, G, and M lines. Additionally, the Q39 and B62 buses have nearby stops. Check MTA.info as ongoing construction at Queens Plaza often causes delays and interruptions.

Click here for tickets.

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