The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Posts Tagged ‘kosciuszko bridge

groping again

with one comment

“follow” me on Twitter at @newtownpentacle

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Perhaps one has become an internet troll.

I do spend an awful lot of time scuttling around beneath bridges and overhead trusses of all kinds, while wandering throughout the concrete devastations of the Newtown Pentacle. Then I find myself posting photos of them to the internet, which offers connection via correlation. As the scions of some mythical “old neighborhood” might proffer: “Dictionary definition, look here douchebag, trolls live under bridges. That means you a fucking troll. Fuck you, troll.”

That really is a quote, incidentally, from a Dungeons and Dragons comrade in Canarsie back during the 1980’s. Essential usage of the Brooklyn patois, at that time, always involved explaining your work when cursing someone out. It was a gentler age, when a young Joe Piscopo taught us all how to laugh again.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Perhaps, one can be cast as a paparazzo for decaying infrastructure and artisan pollution instead. Imagine a humble narrator clad in scarf and motor scooter, zipping around town searching for remnants of the forgotten and occluded world of fat rendering and manufactured gas while always keeping a watchful eye on the once and future king of the Creeks, called Newtown.

Dynamic, this lifestyle of the paparazzi would, given the poor and mediocre existence currently endured, irrevocably brighten ones outlook.

Back in the “old neighborhood,” which was not all that old or really much of a neighborhood, it was opined as best to keep ones sights set low lest disappointment and regret rule ones mind in extreme old age. It was commonly decided that prudence demanded the acquisition of a government job with benefits and regular hours, receiving a pension after 25 years, and then moving away from “all the bullshit” to be the best course of action one could take.

There were a lot of cops, garbage men, firemen, and EMT’s in the old neighborhood. Nurses too.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Unfortunately, it does seem that one has indeed become this much maligned creature of hideous modernity called an “Internet troll.” If you spot some scruffy bag of mostly water, all wrapped up in a filthy black raincoat and scuttling about while clumsily picking its path around and beneath a bridge, that very well might be me.

What else it might be, for my countenance is somewhat unbearable to behold by the unprepared and there are certain asymmetrical oddities in my gait and postures which defy impersonation, few can say. I will continue to post these captured photons on the internet, notwithstanding that they might be dispatches from Trollheim.

gleaming image

leave a comment »

- photo by Mitch Waxman

It should be mentioned that under normal circumstance, the narration recited on board one of the Newtown Creek boat tours which I’ve been a part of in the recent past has been “the straight story”. By that, I mean that the normal narrative which readers of this blog have grown used to is toned down a bit, and a more mainstream presentation is offered. There are still plenty of “night soil and offal dock” stories, but as I have a relatively short amount of time to tell the story of Newtown Creek, a lot of the more… colourful… stuff gets trimmed out. Luckily, the Newtown Creek Alliance is producing a “spooky” Halloween tour this Saturday (October 27), and I get to go to town on this one.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

In addition to weaving the Blissville Banshee, Maspeth Gypsies, and witch panics into my speech- there are two other factors which make this tour special. First and foremost is the price, subsidized by grant money from the NYCEF fund of the Hudson River Foundation – which allows NCA to offer the trip at an amazing price of just $25. Secondly, the time at which we will be embarking is late in the afternoon, which should offer spectacular sunset lighting of the Creek for photographers and sensitives alike.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

This is a two hour excursion, leaving from Manhattan’s South Sea Seaport on board a comfortable NY Water Taxi (which, yes, has bathroom facilities). NCA is encouraging the wearing of seasonal costuming to celebrate and acknowledge the Halloween holiday. Scheduled speakers include your humble narrator and NCA Executive Director Kate Zidar. Whatever there is, which cannot possibly exist, lurking in the Black Mayonnaise which underlies the cursed waters of that cataract of agony known as the Newtown Creek has refused to make an appearance sans ritual sacrifice- something NCA cannot have any involvement with due to the intricacies of its 501/3c non profit status. The thing in the megalith will be watching, however.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The question of what sort of costume I will be wearing is still up in the air. Attempts to borrow a death cloak have so far been unsuccessful, despite the fact that several people I know own such raiments. Click the banner just below this paragraph for ticketing information and fulfillment. Do you dare to enter this nightmare world of the Newtown Creek, or will you instead cling to the illusion of sanity which exists beyond its banks?

Also- Upcoming Newtown Creek tours and events:

for more information on the October 27th Newtown Creek Boat Tour, click here

for more information on the November 9th Newtown Creek Magic Lantern Show, click here

for an expanded description of the November 11th Newtown Creek tour, please click here

it shines and shakes and laughs

with 2 comments

- photo by Mitch Waxman

How one has missed the filth and degradation. Rendering the urgency of returning to these places, lonely and swept by a poisonous fume called wind, and finding the lessons offered has been a source of great angst for your humble narrator. It is difficult to describe my personal experience with these lots and parcels, or defend my deep affection for something like the former Phelps Dodge property at Laurel Hill. This is a shunned place, avoided by all given a choice, yet one finds himself moving inexorably toward it after pinning cap to head and telling “Our Lady of the Pentacle” that “I’m going out for a walk”.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

There is little honey to be found here, unless one uses the euphemism favored by DEP employees for the material they handle. Everywhere is a concretized and apocalyptic post industrial landscape and active culture of garbage handlers and warehouse employees. Barren, the landscape enjoys only the crudest amenities. Street trees are quickly shattered by trucks, and a loose sandy gravel seemingly composed of powderized automotive glass reflects a weak and diffuse light transmitted by the burning thermonuclear eye of god itself.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

For one such as myself, a ghastly and shambling outcast scuttling about in a filthy black raincoat, the only thought a place like Maspeth Creek can evince is “Hallelujah”. Every suspicion about the truth of the great human hive is manifest here, and condemnation of society at large is readily at hand. Perhaps this is why I am so drawn to this forgotten valley of corrupted nature, as it mirrors the sickness in my own thoughts. An inch behind my eyes, I believe, is naught but black mayonnaise.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Maybe I am “all ‘effed up”, but to me, this is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. “Welcome to Newtown Creek”, say I, with hardly any sense or ironic humor or twee dispatch.

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

for more information on the October 27th Newtown Creek Boat Tour, click here

for more information on the November 9th Newtown Creek Magic Lantern Show, click here

for an expanded description of the November 11th Newtown Creek tour, please click here

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 12, 2012 at 12:15 am

the last birthday of the Kosciuszko Bridge

with 5 comments

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Oh, the old gray mare, she ain’t what she used to be,

Ain’t what she used to be, ain’t what she used to be.

The old gray mare, she ain’t what she used to be, Many long years ago.

Seventy Three years ago today, the Little Flower cut the ribbon and officially opened the “New Meeker Avenue Bridge” to traffic. The following April in 1940, it was renamed as the Kosciuszko Bridge.

It’s the Night of the Living Dead, by the way. Also, it’s Vulcanalia

August 23, 1939, image New York City Municipal Archives at

- photo by Arthur J. Foley

According to the Long Island City Star-Journal of August 24th, 1939- the lineup of folks in the shot and action above are described as:

Mayor LaGuardia snips the ribbon which admitted the first autos lo use the lofty new Meeker Avenue Bridge over Newtown Creek in Laurel Hill, at the dedication held yesterday at Laurel Hill Plaza. To the right of the mayor is Acting Borough President John J. Halloran of Queens. To his left is Borough President Raymond V. Ingersoll of Brooklyn. Left of Ingersoll is Frederick J. H. Kracke, who was commissioner of Plant and Structures when that department originated plans for the bridge.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

American Bridge Company and Bethlehem Steel worked on her, along with dozens of other contractors. The Big K was part of what was known as “the Regional Plan”, which also provied the pretext for the erection of the Triborough, Whitestone, Marine Parkway and a slew of other bridges across the archipelago.

July 14, 1939, image New York City Municipal Archives at,

- photo by Arthur J. Foley

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Odds are very good that this is her last birthday, as the “Fast Track” program announced by the Governor will be kick starting the construction of a “Newer Meeker Avenue Bridge”- or perhaps the “Kosciuszko Two”- by the late spring of 2013. She will be gone by 2017, if one were to believe the schedule currently touted by State officials.

June 29, 1939, image New York City Municipal Archives at,

- photo by Joseph Shelderfer

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The historic shots included in this post all link out to the New York City Municipal Archives site, which has famously begun releasing thousands of historic images of the City online. One of the tricks to using the system, I’ve discovered, is knowing what things used to be called. It’s a “streetcar” versus “trolley” kind of thing. We call the former light rail system by the latter name, while those who dwelled in the past used the former.

June 29, 1939, image New York City Municipal Archives at,

- photo by Joseph Shelderfer

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Very little information is available about the construction and planning of the Kosciuszko, but there’s plenty about the New Meeker Avenue Bridge. The Big K was built for two official reasons- first, to provide a link between the multitudes of infinite Brooklyn and the World Fair Grounds in Flushing (Flushing Meadow Corona Park), and secondly to replace the aging swing bridge that spanned Newtown Creek between Meeker Avenue in Brooklyn and Laurel Hill Blvd. in Queens. Unofficially, Robert Moses really wanted to get the Brooklyn Queens Expressway built and this was as good a place as any to start.

August 14, 1939, image New York City Municipal Archives at,

- photo by Arthur J. Foley

- photo by Mitch Waxman

One does look forward to that day in the latter half of this decade, which I seriously doubt will be anything even close to 2017, when the pedestrian lane of the new bridge will be open for inspection. One of the most frustrating parts of the current bridge is that it once sported such a lane for perambulation, but it has long been closed off- thwarting photographic exploitation of the surreal vantage point that it offers.

How I would love to set up a tripod on the Kosciuszko Bridge…


style=”padding-left:30px;”>Construction on a new bridge is now expected to begin in spring 2013 — a year ahead of schedule, thanks to $460 million made available for the job by Gov. Cuomo’s New York Work initiative.

The 73-year-old bridge, which carries the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway over the Newtown Creek, qualified for the money in part because it is on the state’s “deficient bridge” list.

The initial phase of construction will build an eastbound lane next to the existing bridge, according to the state Department of Transportation, the agency overseeing the project. The 1.1-mile bridge is expected to be done in 2017 and will cost about $800 million.

When completed, two new spans with a total of nine vehicle lanes and paths for pedestrians and bikes will replace the original structure.

Here’s a rare historic shot- in color- of the mighty span, from the year it was opened, also courtesy New York Municipal Archives

- photo by New York City Municipal Archives

- photo by Mitch Waxman

And just as a remider, in the name of public good and an abundance of caution- don’t forget about the whole Night of the Living Dead thing- this could be trouble.

from youtube- I’d suggest skipping forward to the 1 hour 13 minute marker, btw, unless you’ve got time to watch the whole flick via the Crackle Youtube page.

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 23, 2012 at 12:15 am

a poison cauldron

with one comment

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Long have I been reluctant to bring people to this place.

For several months now, your humble narrator has been narrating in a not so humble fashion while leading boat and walking tours of the Newtown Creek watershed.

Literally hundreds of people have attended either the “Thirteen Steps around Dutch Kills“, “Insalubrious Valley“, or “Newtown Creek Boat Tour” events this year- and one question has been asked by all- “What about the Greenpoint Oil Spill?”.

Next week- a group of enthusiasts will be assembling, under the auspices of Atlas Obscura, to explore the lamentable “Poison Cauldron” of the Newtown Creek.

There are still tickets available, should you care to witness the place prior to its forthcoming demolition.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Down Under the Kosciuszko Bridge Onramp, or DUKBO, is the name I’ve assigned to this lunar landscape of industrial mills and waste transfer stations which lines the Brooklyn side of the Creek. This year is functionally the last time you will be able to witness this place, as the Kosciuszko Bridge replacement project will be kicking into high gear in the spring of 2013.

For the urban explorer and photographer crowd, this is a wonderland of shattered streets and rusted infrastructure which will soon be eradicated from all but living memory.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The tour will tell the story of Standard Oil at its start and cross over the Greenpoint Oil Spill’s heart, revealing that lost world of industrial aspiration and 20th century dissolution which lies less than a mile from the geographic and population centers of New York City.

In the past, I’ve described the area as “Mordor” at this, your Newtown Pentacle, and the Tolkien analogy is apt. The very air you breathe is a poisonous fume, the water is hopelessly tainted with bizarre combinations and millions of gallons of petroleum and industrial chemicals, the soil is impregnated with heavy metals, asbestos, and truly- who can guess all there is that might be buried down there?

An odd concentration of food distribution, waste transfer and garbage handling facilities, and energy industry plants make the area remarkable, and everywhere you look will be a “colour“- a bizarrely iridescent sheen which resembles no wholesome nor familiar earthly color but is instead like something from out of space- coating every bit of broken masonry and the sweat slicked skin of laborer and passerby alike.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Standard offer copy follows:

Meetup at the corner of Kingsland and Norman Avenues in Greenpoint at 11 on Saturday, August 25th.

We will be exploring the petroleum and waste transfer districts of the Newtown Creek watershed in North Brooklyn. Heavily industrialized, the area we will be walking through is the heart of the Greenpoint Oil Spill and home to scores of waste transfer stations and other heavy industries. We will be heading for the thrice damned Kosciuszko Bridge, which is scheduled for a demolition and replacement project which will be starting in 2013. Photographers, in particular, will find this an interesting walk through a little known and quite obscure section of New York City.

Be prepared: We’ll be encountering broken pavement, sometimes heavy truck traffic, and experiencing a virtual urban desert as we move through the concrete devastations of North Brooklyn. Dress and pack appropriately for hiking, closed toe shoes are highly recommended- as are a hat or parasol to shield you from the sun.

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. Drivers, it would be wise to leave your cars in the vicinity of McGolrick Park in Greenpoint.

Click here for tickets, and as always- a limited number of walk ups will be welcomed- but for safety reasons we need to limit the group to a manageable size. Contact me at this email if you desire further details.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 859 other followers

%d bloggers like this: