The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘kosciuszko bridge

went silently

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Sometimes you get what you pay for.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Wandering about in DUKBO recently, specifically western Maspeth (aka Berlin) nearby its border with Blissville, your humble narrator found himself confronted with one of the many conundrums which torment. My Dad was a “working guy,” one whose entire body was thrown into the meat grinder of manual labor during his working life. Routinely exposed to paint, solvents, and all sorts of other chemicals which his trade utilized, the old man eventually succumbed to cancer.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The old man had a list of industrial accidents which he would rattle off to those who asked. The time he fell off a ladder and was blinded for a few months when a pail of lye splashed into his eyes, or a freak accident that somehow opened up his inner arm from wrist to armpit which needed 400 stitches to close, or the long lasting bursitis and arthritic after effects of having worked at an industrial butcher in the freezer room when he was a kid. There were busted toes, bad knees, a gamey hip, bulging vertebrae, broken ribs, a shoulder that made sounds when he moved it, and the scar tissue on his hands had formed into thickened gloves.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Other than insisting that I figure out some way to get a desk job instead of following in his footsteps, the old man had no real regrets other than never having won the lottery nor owned a Cadillac. He did what he had to do and always tried to get the job done right, or at least as half assed as he could get away with. This has been referenced before, and when I see working guys doing what the fellow in the shot above is doing, I cringe a bit and start to think about the old man. The guy in the shot is doing so many things wrong, safety wise, that I was half expecting him to just burst into flame as I walked by.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

I spend enough time around the union types that I’ve kind of been infected by their logic. My upstairs neighbor sets out safety cones and a fire extinguisher when he barbecues, but he does something at work which he calls “firewatch” that requires permit and certification. “Even if ya don’t need it Bro, god forbid something happens you can at least say you did everything you could.” Also mentioned, in the past, has been the physical cowardice for which I am famous.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Given to capricious fits of panic and paranoia, your humble narrator attempts full situational awareness at all times, constantly scanning the local vicinity for threats. Those who know me personally will confirm the constant stream of warnings about broken sidewalks, things which drip, or suspicious personages to watch out for that spews forth. Additionally, I advise strangers who are crossing Northern Blvd. to stand behind something while standing at corners and waiting for the light to change. I’m all ‘effed up, but this really isn’t the old mans fault, I was just born weird. One of the things which allows one such as myself nepenthe is the presence of union guys like my pal upstairs, or these poor schmucks on a picket line in front of that dry ice and compressed gas place right at the corner of Laurel Hill and Review. Union labor keeps things nice and safe for the rest of us. You won’t find them sitting on a ladder using a metal grinder to remove paint without wearing glasses or a mask, nor wearing highly flammable synthetic fabrics while doing so.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The old man wasn’t in a union, he had some objection to them- something about the mafia and being Jewish and his older brother- a story which he changed periodically to prove a point or win an argument. I kind of wish he was, at least he would have gotten paid a lot better, and likely wouldn’t have been quite as busted up by the job. This little conundrum of mine, pondered while marching across the concrete devastations of DUKBO, is this: why do I care so much about what happens to strangers, nor mind my own business? Also, if I care so much, what can I do about it?

What would Superman do?

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Want to see something cool? Summer 2013 Walking Tours-

Kill Van Kull- Saturday, June 22, 2013
Staten Island walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Working Harbor Committee, tickets now on sale.

The Insalubrious Valley- Saturday, June 29, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Newtown Creek Alliance, tickets now on sale.

Modern Corridor- Saturday, July 13, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets on sale soon.

carnivorous organisms

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Today’s post visits DUKBO, Down Under the Kosciuszko Bridge Onramp.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

An angle between neighborhoods, this spot is in Maspeth and Sunnyside and Blissville and Laurel Hill all at the same time. It’s alongside the Brooklyn Queens Expressway and the Queens leg of the 1.1 mile long Kosciuszko Bridge Complex and the Long Island Expressway. To the west lies Calvary Cemetery and its tomb legions, and it is known to all simply and aptly as Laurel Hill Blvd.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the spots where Europeans originally settled in Queens, as early as the 1680’s there were farms and houses here, it is nevertheless a forgotten and desolate place seldom traveled to but rather through. In actuality, if you were to count all the humans who travelled by on any given day, the number would suggest one of the most crowded spots on the planet.

Luckily, local artisans have inscribed the spot.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Vast graffiti has been installed, decrying the clarion call of the outer boroughs upon the titan masonry of the bridge’s approach ramp. Epic wit emblazoned with such panache surely indicates the presence of a latter day bard here in this angle between neighborhoods.

Pithy expression, and the freedom to pursue it, indeed.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Happily, everything in Queens faces Manhattan these days, and on a clear day one might be able to discern this delicate missive from the Shining City if atmospheric and lighting conditions are just right. Also, the thought paid by the artist to those visiting the interred at Calvary must be heeded.

Imagine the joy of describing to your grandchild what the word “Scumbag” means as he stands in front of a loved ones grave.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Want to see something cool? June 2013 Walking Tours-

The Poison Cauldron- Saturday, June 15, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets now on sale.

Kill Van Kull- Saturday, June 22, 2013
Staten Island walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Working Harbor Committee, tickets now on sale.

The Insalubrious Valley- Saturday, June 29, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Newtown Creek Alliance, tickets now on sale.

possible variations

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“follow” me on Twitter at @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Walking Tour- the Parks and Petroleum tour- May 12, next Sunday

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Meetup at the corner of Kingsland and Norman Avenues in Greenpoint.

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 this year.

Photographers, in particular, will find this an interesting walk through of 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 to the Newtown Creek Alliance Parks and Petroleum walking tour with Mitch Waxman,
Sunday, May 12, 2013 at 11 am.

- 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 fall 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.

Tickets are available, should you care to witness the place prior to its forthcoming demolition.

- 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

Other upcoming tours:

The Insalubrious Valley- Saturday, May 25, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets now on sale.

Hidden Harbor: Newtown Creek tour with Mitch Waxman – Sunday, May 26,2013
Boat tour presented by the Working Harbor Committee,
Limited seating available, order advance tickets now. Group rates available.

for a full listing and schedule of tours and events, click here

groping again

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“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

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- 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

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- 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

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- 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 nycma.lunaimaging.com

- 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 nycma.lunaimaging.com,

- 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 nycma.lunaimaging.com,

- 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 nycma.lunaimaging.com,

- 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 nycma.lunaimaging.com,

- 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…

from nydailynews.com

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

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