The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘Bayonne Bridge

definite utterance

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Maritime Sunday bobs to the surface.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Joan Turecamo, IMO number 7902025, is a 392 ton Tug which was built in 1981 at the Matton Shipyard in Cohoes, NY. She’s owned and operated by the Moran Company, and was recently spotted while onboard a Working Harbor Committee “Beyond Sandy” tour. In the background is the ill fated Bayonne Bridge spanning the Kill Van Kull, a structure whom modernity has labeled “an impediment to navigation.” Maritime Sunday shout outs to the Moran tug and her crew.

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Want to see something cool? Summer 2013 Walking Tours-

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.

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 21, 2013 at 11:27 am

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“follow” me on Twitter at @newtownpentacle

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Just a short one today, the tug Mary Alice rolling along at twilight. Back tomorrow with something a bit more substantial, but today must be spent with loved ones as the world soon ends.

Only 12 days left until the 13th b’ak’tun ends, initiating the Mayan Apocalypse on December 21st, after all.

terrific fatigue

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the Bayonne Bridge, mentioned a couple of times this week, spanning the busy Kill Van Kull. The last “regular” Working Harbor Committee excursion of the year was recently enacted, and we encountered sometimes heavy weather and an overcast sky which laid down a pall of preternatural darkness upon the harbor. The air itself was thick with fog and mist, and many were the times which I needed to clear my lens of condensates.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Denizens of the harbor used to such visual occlusion, the working vessels and tugs kept to their normal routines. Hushed intonations have been offered to your humble narrator in the past suggesting that a suite of electronics are commonly found onboard these machines. These esoteric devices neutralize the need for direct line of sight, allowing the operator to remotely sense the environment around them.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The shadowed shoreline observed in these shots is the so called “Chemical Coast” of New Jersey. The name was earned in an earlier century, when Bayonne was famed for its mastery of colorant and dye manufacture, before the oil industry arrived with the Rockefellers.

desolate shore

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned in yesterday’s posting, a few friends and I made it a point to experience the Bayonne Bridge a few weeks back and walk over the pedestrian walkway. Our reasoning was that since the construction project which will “rekajigger” the roadway is beginning quite soon, access to this point of view will be denied to pedestrians for some time and we had better go while the getting was good. Hence…

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The bridge seems absurdly high, much more than its actual height suggests. This is largely due to the low lying shorelines which comprise the surrounding terrain, which are a vast tidal floodplain reclaimed by landfill techniques from the swampy marshlands which nature intended. One or two members of our small party found themselves suffering the effects of vertigo, but luckily your humble narrator was not one of them. My paranoid fantasies allow little room for other psychological complaints to crowd in.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Attempts at “getting artsy fartsy” with the camera were what occupied me, and along the way envy for the unique perspectives captured by the daring bridge photographer Dave Frieder crawled into my mind. If you don’t know Frieder’s work, you should. He made a career of climbing the bridges of New York City (and beyond) and captured extraordinary images while doing so. He is also quite the expert on bridge engineering.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

There is true beauty in the arch component of the Bayonne Bridge, one can visualize the lines of force moving through the steel. Othmar Amman, who designed the bridge, often allowed the structural elements of his work to remain visible. Before him, engineers would be compelled to erect facades of masonry or cement to encase the steel, but he liked to let it all hang out.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking to the west, and New Jersey, one may observe the gargantuan Port Elizabeth Newark dock complex which serves as one of the main engines of the Port of New York. Gantry cranes and stacked shipping containers obscure Newark Airport behind it. Beyond lies the continent, and the United States.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

To the east is witnessed the city state which lies off the coast of America, the shining city. The Kill Van Kull is the body of water spanned by the Bayonne Bridge, a tidal strait which connects the port facilities to the west with ocean going traffic. The Kill has been discussed thoroughly here at your Newtown Pentacle, and a section of its landward side on Staten Island is actually the subject of a walking tour (offered below) which I conduct for the Working Harbor Committee. The Staten Island side of the Kill is “The North Shore” and the Jersey side is called “The Chemical Coast”.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Some work on the bridge has already begun, as evinced by the construction aprons being installed. The initial phases of things involve the removal of generations of lead based paint which protect the structure from corrosion. In our environmentally and politically correct age, such material is anathema, and must be removed. Discussion of the EPA administered site on the Staten Island side which is polluted with Uranium, of course, will be kept to a minimum.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Slouching downward toward Bayonne, those lines of force I mentioned earlier dance within the steel. Not pictured, incidentally, are the many bits of signage installed along the walkway advising the citizenry against suicide. Were my only choices for residence New Jersey or… Staten Island, despondency might set in, but one cannot believe that either is “that bad”. Since the City keeps the suicide counts for individual bridges quiet, I can’t provide any insight on this, but is the Bayonne Bridge a favorite spot for such activity?

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Fully ensconced on the New Jersey side, the roadway betrays its destination via signage. Morningstar Rd. seems to be innocently named, but upon seeing the sign, I could not help but think of two things. First- the Morningstar in occultist circles is Venus, and Second- Morningstar is the last name of the transmogrified archangel Lucifer. Perhaps those anti suicide signs are more prosaic than I thought. Does the Bayonne Bridge quietly connect to some outer borough road to hell?

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Bayonne Bridge as seen from the New Jersey side, as our little party entered the unknown country of Bayonne in search of a diner. Luckily New Jersey is lousy with such establishments, although there is a significant difference in the meaning of “sloppy joe” over there. The NYC sloppy joe is what the rest of America would call a “loose meat sandwich”, whereas in NJ it’s a three layered affair which involves turkey breast, cole slaw, and russian dressing- amongst other things.

Also- Upcoming tours…

for an expanded description of the October 13th Kill Van Kull tour, please click here

for an expanded description of the October 20th Newtown Creek tour, please click here

subsidiary impression

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

You see it all the time, here at your Newtown Pentacle. The Bayonne Bridge, deemed an archaic impediment to navigation by those scions of NY harbor whose hidden machinations are confined to secretive board room meetings at Port Authority and the NYC EDC, is often used as a frame for tugboat shots by your humble narrator. Othman Amman’s second masterpiece (after Hellgate), the bridge is destined to be altered shortly. Accordingly, a group of enthusiasts, antiquarians, and weirdos were gathered one fine September morning to walk across it.

from a Newtown Pentacle posting of June 26, 2009

The fourth largest steel arch bridge on Earth with a height of 150 feet over the water, it connects Bayonne, New Jersey’s Chemical Coastline with Staten Island. It’s primary mission is to allow vehicular traffic access to Manhattan via the Holland Tunnel…

The Bayonne Bridge was designed by a man who helped design the Hell Gate rail bridge on the East river- and was principal designer for the Verrazano bridge over the Narrows, The George Washingston Bridgeover the Hudson River, the Bronx Whitestone Bridge over the East River, the Throgs Neck Bridge over the East River. He was brought in to simplify the design of mighty Triborough- which is actually a bridge and highway complex spanning multiple waterways and islands. A swede Swiss, Othmar Amman worked for Gustavus Lindenthal (designer of the the Queensboro and Hell Gate Bridges), and took over as head bridge engineer at the New York Port Authority in 1925. He also directed the planning and construction of the the Lincoln Tunnel.

He was Robert Moses’s “guy”.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

We came to… Staten Island… via the ferry, and accessed a bus which took us to a less than savory section of the forgotten borough adjoining the bridge. There, the walkway was gained and off we went. Amongst our number was Kevin Walsh of Forgotten-NY fame, my aide de camp and far eastern correspondent Armstrong, as well as our railroad expert, and a certain lady who knows that all that glitters is gold. Stairway to heaven, indeed.

from panynj.gov

Initially, the bridge was planned for motor vehicles, bicycles, and pedestrians only. Accordingly, a suspension bridge design was developed since this type of bridge offered the most economical way to engineer a single span across the Kill Van Kull for motor vehicles. However, the suspension scheme was abandoned when the Port Authority commissioners insisted that considerations be made for at least two rail transit tracks to be added at some future date. (Studies showed that adapting a suspension design for rail traffic would be cost-prohibitive.) With rail traffic in mind, the bridge’s chief designer, Othmar H. Ammann, began developing a scheme that spanned the Kill Van Kull with a single, innovative, arch-shaped truss. As with the suspension bridge scheme, Ammann worked on the arch design in partnership with architect Cass Gilbert. The arch bridge that emerged promised to be a remarkably efficient solution, well suited to the site from both an engineering and aesthetic standpoint.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Like the thrice damned Kosciuszko Bridge over my beloved Newtown Creek, Bayonne Bridge is a relict of an earlier age with a less than bright future. Public fortunes will be spent on reengineering it to fit the needs of private commercial interests. Government sources describe a scenario in which the arch itself will remain unaltered, but that the road which it carries will be obliterated and replaced. Increasingly important to accomplish the walk before this happened, we ignored the signs along the walkway adjuring against suicide and left… Staten Island… for New Jersey to see what could be seen. More to come…

Also- Upcoming tours…

for an expanded description of the October 13th Kill Van Kull tour, please click here

for an expanded description of the October 20th Newtown Creek tour, please click here

present position

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

Maritime Sunday is with us once again, happening to coincide with Greek or Eastern Orthodox Easter (known as greester here in Astoria) as well as the 100th anniversary of the well known Titanic disaster. That subject will be explored by everyone else, I suspect, so instead let’s check out the scene on the Kill Van Kull.

from wikipedia

The Bayonne Bridge is the fourth-longest steel arch bridge in the world, and was the longest in the world at the time of its completion. It connects Bayonne, New Jersey with Staten Island, New York, spanning the Kill Van Kull. Despite popular belief, it is not a national landmark.

The bridge was designed by master bridge-builder Othmar Ammann and the architect Cass Gilbert. It was built by the Port of New York Authority and opened on November 15, 1931, after dedication ceremonies were held the previous day.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

These shots were captured while onboard one of the many Working Harbor Committee excursions I attended last summer, and portrays one of those summer days which New York is infamous for. Heavy clouds of humidity dangle, and inescapable temperatures render the entire archipelago in a tropical aspect.

from wikipedia

The Kill Van Kull is a tidal strait between Staten Island, New York and Bayonne, New Jersey in the United States. Approximately 3 miles (4.8 km) long and 1,000 feet (305 m) wide, it connects Newark Bay with Upper New York Bay. The Robbins Reef Light marks the eastern end of the Kill, Bergen Point its western end. Spanned by the Bayonne Bridge, it is one of the most heavily travelled waterways in the Port of New York and New Jersey.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

From this cauldron of wet heat emerged the vermillion hull of a Bouchard tug, the Frederick E Bouchard. It was returning from the gargantuan Port Newark complex, where it’s unknown mission seemed to have been accomplished.

from bouchardtransport.com

From his first voyage at eleven years of age as a cabin boy on a sailing ship bound for China, Captain Bouchard knew that shipping would be his life. By 1915, he was the youngest tugboat captain in the Port of New York.

On July 30, 1916, while on watch of the tug C. GALLAGHER of the Goodwin, Gallagher Sand Co., Captain Bouchard witnessed the infamous Black Tom Explosion, which detonated $22 Million dollars worth of WW I munitions. Always one to set out to accomplish what few others could, he took his tug from the Long Dock at Erie Basin in Brooklyn and headed for New Jersey. Amongst continuing explosions, which blew the glass panes and lights out of his tug, he worked to rescue the 4,000-ton Brazilian steamer TIJOCA RIO, and the schooner GEORGE W. ELEZY, of Bath, ME. Later the US District Court awarded the Captain a salvage award and an additional award for personal bravery, which totaled $9,000. He quickly invested the salvage award to create his own company, Bouchard Transportation Company, which was incorporated in 1918.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

A fairly large boat, for NY Harbor at least, the tug made good time against the tide. Models like this one are used by the petroleum industry to ferry fuel barges from point to point along the waterfront, ensuring that bulk delivery of “product” to local distribution depots happens in a timely fashion.

from tugboatinformation.com

Built in 1975, by Halter Marine of New Orleans, Louisiana (hull #437) as the Frederick E. Bouchard for Bouchard Transportation of Melville, New York.

She is a twin screw tug rated rated at 3,900 horsepower.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Omnivorous, of course, the Frederick E Bouchard has also been personally observed handling non volatile cargos as well. You have to stay busy in the maritime industry, and cargo is cargo. The actual nature of the cargo may change, requiring special handling dictated by custom and regulations, but at the end it’s physics and profit margin that define the mission carried out by maritime professionals.

from auxguidanceskills.info

Law of Gross Tonnage

The law, which is more common sense then explicitly written in the code, goes like this: “The heavier vessel always has the right-of-way.”

This is based on simple Newtonian physics. Newton’s first law talks about objects in motion stay in motion unless another force is acted upon it. In other words, if a boat is moving a 5 mph east and you were in the vacuum of space, it would never stop traveling east at 5 mph. However, we all know when we stop our engine on our boat, we slow down.

How long it takes to go from 5 mph to zero, depends on wind, and current. Even if there was no wind or current, we’d still slow down, because the water itself provides friction upon the hull of the boat, and that in itself acts as a brake.

We all have, by observation found that the bigger the object, the longer it takes to slow down. Newton’s second law of physics talks about how the amount of force required to move an object is inversely proportional to the mass of the object.

So, if a tug and barge were traveling down a narrow channel, and you stopped your boat 1,000 feet away, right in front of the tug and barge; and, if the master of the tug saw you immediately; and if the master of the tug immediately began to stop the tug and barge; you’d have less than one minute to move your vessel.

Because if you didn’t move your vessel in less than 60 small seconds, the tug and barge would just run right over you. It would be impossible for the master of the tug to stop, based of the collective mass of both the vessel and the barge, in 1,000 feet.

The law of gross tonnage is un-relenting. It is a fact of life. What also is a fact of life, is that you should not depend on the master of the tug or any other large vessel is able to see you, either visually or on radar.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned at the start of this post, today is Easter Sunday to adherents of the Eastern Orthodox church, but oddly enough, it coincides with a decidedly goddess based celebration which the Roman Empire celebrated called Fordicidia.

from wikipedia

In ancient Roman religion, the Fordicidia was a festival of fertility, held April 15, that pertained to animal husbandry. It involved the sacrifice of a pregnant cow to Tellus, or Mother Earth, in proximity to the festival of Ceres (Cerealia) on April 19.

On the Roman religious calendar, the month of April was in general preoccupied with deities who were female or ambiguous in gender, opening with the Feast of Venus on the Kalends. Several other festivals pertaining to farm life were held in April: the Parilia, or feast of shepherds, on April 21; the Robigalia on April 25, to protect crops from blight; and the Vinalia, or one of the two wine festivals on the calendar, at the end of the month. Of these, the Fordicidia and Robigalia are likely to have been of greatest antiquity. William Warde Fowler, whose early 20th-century work on Roman festivals remains a standard reference, asserted that the Fordicidia was “beyond doubt one of the oldest sacrificial rites in Roman religion.”

vast enclosure

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

When you cut things down to the bone, and ask yourself the question “Who was the New Yorker that most profoundly changed the City?” it always comes back to one fellow. Ray Kelly or Mike Bloomberg would vie for the crown in modernity, in the long view of history Alexander Hamilton, DeWitt Clinton, Boss Tweed, or the Roebling clan have major claims on the title. Robert Moses would tell you that it was himself, and arguably, so would Osama Bin Laden.

In the opinion of a humble narrator, the crown belongs to one man- a Swedish immigrant named Othmar Ammann, and today is his birthday.

from wikipedia

Othmar Hermann Ammann (March 26, 1879 – September 22, 1965) was a American structural engineer whose designs include the George Washington Bridge, Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, and Bayonne Bridge.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Brooklyn Bridge has the fame, Williamsburg Bridge the infamy, Manhattan Bridge is overlooked. The bridges of Othmar Ammann, however, are the ones which shaped the modern megalopolis and allowed the expansion and diaspora of New York’s laborers from the tenement neighborhoods of the five boroughs to the suburban satellites of modernity. The vast populations of Long Island and New Jersey and Westchester who commute into the city on a daily basis would have never achieved their current size, were Ammann removed from the story.

As a side note, and just to toot my own horn for a moment, the shot above was published last year in the New York Times- check it out here

Also from wikipedia

Othmar Ammann designed more than half of the eleven bridges that connect New York City to the rest of the United States. His talent and ingenuity helped him create the two longest suspension bridges of his time. Ammann was known for being able to create bridges that were light and inexpensive, yet they were still simple and beautiful. He was able to do this by using the deflection theory. He believed that the weight per foot of the span and the cables would provide enough stiffness so that the bridge would not need any stiffening trusses. This made him popular during the depression era when being able to reduce the cost was crucial. Famous bridges by Ammann include:

  • George Washington Bridge (opened October 24, 1931)
  • Bayonne Bridge (opened November 15, 1931)
  • Triborough Bridge (opened July 11, 1936)
  • Bronx-Whitestone Bridge (opened April 29, 1939)
  • Walt Whitman Bridge (opened May 16, 1957)
  • Throgs Neck Bridge (opened January 11, 1961)
  • Verrazano Narrows Bridge (opened November 21, 1964)

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Othmar Ammann was a bit of an artist, his bridges achieving a rare thing for engineering projects, which is the elevation of a functional structure to the sublime. A prevailing theory in fine art and graphic design which emerged in the 20th century is “less is more”, and Ammann’s spans are manifestations of this concept in steel and cement.

from smithsonian.com

By the early 1960s, when the George Washington’s lower deck was added (as specified in the original plans), Ammann had all but eclipsed his mentor. Ammann’s other 1931 creation, the Bayonne Bridge connecting Staten Island and New Jersey, was until 1977 the world’s largest steel arch bridge — more than 600 feet longer than the previous record holder, Lindenthal’s Hell Gate Bridge.

Months before his death in 1965, Ammann gazed through a telescope from his 32nd-floor Manhattan apartment. In his viewfinder was a brand-new sight some 12 miles away: his Verrazano-Narrows suspension bridge. As if in tribute to the engineering prowess that made Ammann’s George Washington Bridge great, this equally slender, graceful span would not be surpassed in length for another 17 years.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Eclipsed by the vain and power seeking during his sunset years, Ammann is one of the forgotten few who crafted the connections between the individual components of the archipelago islands of New York Harbor. Mighty Triborough or the graceful arch of the Bayonne Bridge speak to his sense of esthetic, and indicate that he was in touch with some higher imperative than merely moving automobiles from one place to another.

from nytimes.com

His works soar above the water, spanning the city’s rivers and connecting New York to the rest of the country. But who has heard of Othmar H. Ammann?

Donald Trump hadn’t, at least not back in 1964 when he was a high school student and his father took him to the dedication ceremony for the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. ”It was a sad experience,” Mr. Trump recalled. ”For years, various politicians had fought the bridge. Now that it was built, I watched as these same people all got up and took credit for it, congratulating themselves and introducing one another. The only one not introduced was the man who made the bridge, Othmar Ammann.

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