The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘Grand Street Bridge

peculiar erudition

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Neither Tea nor Tiger…

- photo by Mitch Waxman

After Richard Croker and the Tammany crew in Manhattan managed to beg, borrow, and steal enough support and patronage in Albany and around the independent municipalities which they successfully consolidated into the City of Greater New York in 1898, they had bills to pay. Tammany paid its way by handing out open ended municipal contracts, and in 1903, one them was called the Grand Street Bridge. The slogans bandied about by the local politicians who were not playing ball with the Manhattan crowd was “Keep the Tiger out of Queens,” or “Neither Tea nor Tiger.”

- photo by Mitch Waxman

In the run up to the consolidation, which was decided by a special election, a banner hung nearby this spot which admonished that were the Tammany crowd to gain control of Queens and Brooklyn they would create a wasteland of noxious industries, cemeteries, and trash heaps here. Back then, it was called Whites Dock, and the swampy wetlands were described as being thick with fish and mussels as late as the 1880’s.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The first bridge here, a wooden drawbridge was erected in 1875, followed by a second wood bridge erected in 1890. The modern day Grand Street Bridge over Newtown Creek was opened in 1903, was built by the King Bridge Co. and is a swing bridge. A swing bridge is s structure that pivots 90 degrees on a mechanical turntable, allowing maritime traffic egress by opening an aperture. Grand Street Bridge is the frontline, the DMZ, of the currently undefended border of Brooklyn and Queens.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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.

shallow mud

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Notice: the November 9th Magic Lantern Show with Atlas Obscura is cancelled for now. We hope to reschedule for sometime during the winter. Observatory, where the event is scheduled to take place, has been damaged by Hurricane Sandy and flooding.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Hank the Elevator Guy and I next proceeded to the Grand Street Bridge in our survey of the Newtown Creek watershed, post Hurricane Sandy. Reports during the storm itself described the area as impassible, and knowing that the low lying areas around Metropolitan and Flushing Avenues are normally prone to flooding, it was with no small amount of trepidation that we approached DUGSBO.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

On the Brooklyn side of the Grand Street Bridge, there was evidence of washouts and sedimentation from the banks, and a pile of rubble and even a wooden staircase was piled up against the fence which separates the street from the bulkheads of Newtown Creek’s East Branch.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Additionally, the fire hydrant at the foot of the bridge was painted with muck and mire, indicating that the water overflowing the banks rose to at least its height. This is startling, as it is close to 15 feet over the normal waterline. However, given the presence of the enormous CSO back on Metropolitan Avenue, it would reasonable to assume that the surge rose from two directions here, one traveling eastward along the Creek from the East River, and another rising from the multiple vaults underlying Metropolitan.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Clearly affected by the flooding, this low lying yard which houses a school bus company was hard at work. Most of the buses had their engine hoods open, and mechanics were seen tinkering with the machinery therein. Additionally, there were people inside the buses working with cloths and mops. Another one of the subjects which I’ll likely be called to task for in the future by political wonks and area wags, one only hopes that an enormous amount of bleach will be expended by these laborers, before children are allowed onto these buses when schools open next week.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

It should be noted, and admitted to you lords and ladies, that your humble narrator is embroiled by controversy and derision these days. Unsought but uncomfortably accepted notoriety has brought no small amount of joy to me, but there is a dark side to this as well. My notably unpleasant personality and aberrant disobedience to social norms, it would seem, is best taken in small doses. Fair enough, one must always remain and function as an outsider, for this is where I belong.

protecting shade

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

Much to the chagrin of Our Lady of the Pentacle, an awful lot of time is devoted to “mah research”, and the recent largesse displayed by the NYC Municipal Records folks in allowing online access to their startling photographic collections has consumed an awful lot of my time.

Of particular interest to me, of course, are the historic shots of Newtown Creek and the surrounding communities at various moments in time. Today’s offering is a comparison of modern conditions with historic ones, which in the shots above and below- portray the venerable Grand Street Bridge in both eras from dissimilar but roughly analogous points of view.

My shot is closer to Queens, with the 1903 one below hugging the Bosserts lumber yard on the Brooklyn side.

Here’s the Grand Street bridge in 1903, when it was brand new courtesy NYC Dept. Of Records

Cool, huh?

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Metropolitan Avenue Bridge, formerly known as Masters Bridge, from English Kills looking west in modernity, and the precursor of the modern span being constructed in 1904 below (also looking west).

DUMABO in 1904, courtesy NYC Dept. Of Records

Also cool, no?

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Meeker Avenue Bridge is what it was called when it opened in 1939, and it was renamed as the Kosciuszko Bridge in 1940. My shot is from the middle of the Newtown Creek, while the historic view below is right next to the Phelps Dodge bulkheads on the Queens side.

Here’s the thing in 1939, courtesy NYC Dept. Of Records

- photo by Arthur J. Foley


Click for details on Mitch Waxman’s
Upcoming walking and boat tours of Newtown Creek

July 8th, 2012- Atlas Obscura Walking Tour- The Insalubrious Valley
(note: there are just a few tickets left for this one)

for July 8th tickets, click here for the Atlas Obscura ticketing page

July 22nd, 2012- Working Harbor Committee Newtown Creek Boat Tour

obscure and cryptical

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

Another “Now and then” posting for you today, Lords and Ladies of Newtown, and today it’s arguably my favorite of all the bridges of Newtown Creek- the atavist Grand Street Bridge spanning the currently undefended border of Brooklyn and Queens. The shot above is from the water, as recreating the 1910 era shot below (from the bulkheads of the eastern brooklyn side) would require probable trespass- which in our modern day age of the Terror War might subject one to legal penalties such as exsanguination or some time spent in “the boot“.

- photo from Engineering magazine, Volume 38, 1910- courtesy google books

While it does seem true that the Grand Street Bridge has changed little in the intervening century, the primary difference between then and now is that it doesn’t function as a swing bridge very often these days. The stalwart engineers and mechanics of the DOT do open it for maintenance periodically, but the City has petitioned the Coast Guard to abandon such actions due to lack of industrial need and expense of operation.

For a prior posting which will tell you literally EVERYTHING about the Grand Street Bridge and environs- an area I call DUGSBO- Down Under the Grand Street Bridge Onramp- click here


- photo by Mitch Waxman

An NCA event, which I for one am pretty stoked about:

April NCA meeting hosts Dr. Eric Sanderson

Thursday, April 26, 2012 at 6pm

Ridgewood Democratic Club, 
6070 Putnam Avenue, 
Ridgewood, NY 11385

In addition to important updates from our members – in particular the Bioremedition Workgroup has been very busy! – we will be hosting a special presentation on the “Historical Ecology of Newtown Creek”.

Dr. Eric Sanderson, senior conservation ecologist at the Wildlife Conservation Society and author of “Mannahatta: A Natural History of New York City” (Abrams, 2009), will describe recent studies of the historical ecology of Newtown Creek, describing the original wetlands, creek channels, topography and vegetation of the area. He will show a series of 18th and 19th century maps of the watershed of the creek and discuss the process of synthesizing them into an integrated ecological picture that can be used to inform and inspire natural restoration and cultural appreciation of the Newtown Creek watershed. This work is part of the Welikia Project (, an investigation into the historical ecology of the five boroughs of New York City and surrounding waters. The Welikia Project on Newtown Creek is funded by The NYCEF Newtown Creek Fund of the Hudson River Foundation.

And this Saturday,

Obscura Day 2012, Thirteen Steps around Dutch Kills

Saturday April 28th, 10 a.m.

Your humble narrator will be narrating humbly at this year’s Obscura Day event on April 28th, leading a walking tour of Dutch Kills. There are a few tickets left, so grab them while you can.

“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 retractible 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.”

For tickets and full details, click here :

thickening twilight

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

Sickened by weariness and a youth misspent, your humble narrator nevertheless has been tormenting himself lately with regret and guilty nonsense. “Not working hard enough” is omnipresent in my mind these days, and accordingly, the length and depth of my wanderings through the Creeklands have expanded. A lack of physical exercise is deadly to a poor specimen like myself, something which is difficult during the winter months due to that certain allergy to cold which has manifested – and which has become amplified- in recent years.

It’s amazing the ways that your body changes as you grow older, sometimes it seems as if there’s some feeble alien creature within that is pushing and tearing a path to the outside world through your very flesh.


Y’ha-nthlei was not destroyed when the upper-earth men shot death into the sea. It was hurt, but not destroyed. The Deep Ones could never be destroyed, even though the palaeogean magic of the forgotten Old Ones might sometimes check them. For the present they would rest; but some day, if they remembered, they would rise again for the tribute Great Cthulhu craved. It would be a city greater than Innsmouth next time.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Carrying forth, however, is something compelled rather than desired. My team of doctors has advised me of decaying homeostasis, entropic processes, and general decline. Their suggestions are to step up, exert more effort, and seek even greater frequency for these long walks while avoiding the pleasures and poisons of the west. Luckily, the ancient pathways and avenues which surround and inform that nearby slick of languid infamy known as the Newtown Creek supply ample locations to inspect, never failing to intimate some hidden meaning or vaguely shadowed terror.

Who can guess, all there is, that might be buried down there?


“The nethermost caverns,” wrote the mad Arab, “are not for the fathoming of eyes that see; for their marvels are strange and terrific. Cursed the ground where dead thoughts live new and oddly bodied, and evil the mind that is held by no head. Wisely did Ibn Schacabao say, that happy is the tomb where no wizard hath lain, and happy the town at night whose wizards are all ashes. For it is of old rumour that the soul of the devil-bought hastes not from his charnel clay, but fats and instructs the very worm that gnaws; till out of corruption horrid life springs, and the dull scavengers of earth wax crafty to vex it and swell monstrous to plague it. Great holes secretly are digged where earth’s pores ought to suffice, and things have learnt to walk that ought to crawl.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Paranoid wonderings, lunatic ideations, unnameable desires- all haunt me during the seemingly aimless steps. Delusions of self importance, hubris, and vast ennui are my only companions on these often cobbled streets. A discarded landscape with a lost history, this is a place given to the dead, the diseased, the barren… a perfect home for one such as myself. There seems to be a current in the air, a taste of anxiety on the tip of my tongue which is all pervasive, and it feels as if something is about to happen.

Ahh… I’m all effed up.


I do not recall distinctly when it began, but it was months ago. The general tension was horrible. To a season of political and social upheaval was added a strange and brooding apprehension of hideous physical danger; a danger widespread and all-embracing, such a danger as may be imagined only in the most terrible phantasms of the night. I recall that the people went about with pale and worried faces, and whispered warnings and prophecies which no one dared consciously repeat or acknowledge to himself that he had heard. A sense of monstrous guilt was upon the land, and out of the abysses between the stars swept chill currents that made men shiver in dark and lonely places. There was a daemoniac alteration in the sequence of the seasons—the autumn heat lingered fearsomely, and everyone felt that the world and perhaps the universe had passed from the control of known gods or forces to that of gods or forces which were unknown.


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