The Newtown Pentacle

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soothing diagnosis

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Want to see something cool?

- photo by Mitch Waxman

There are three public Newtown Creek walking tours coming up, one in Queens and one in Brooklyn and one that walks the currently undefended border of the two boroughs. I have another iron in the fire, which I’ll tell you about later this week. As you’re reading this, I’m likely on a boat with the Working Harbor Committee’s Education program, showing off the harbor to a group of high school students.

Plank Road, with Newtown Creek Alliance, on April 19th. This one is free, click here to get on the list.

Poison Cauldron, with Atlas Obscura, on April 26th. Click here for more info and ticketing.

Modern Corridor, with Brooklyn Brainery, on May 18th. Click here for more info and ticketing.

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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.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

possible opportunities

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My beloved Newtown Creek, at the currently undefended border of Brooklyn and Queens.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The spot which this shot was captured from is definitively in Queens, although it is quite close to the Brooklyn border which is currently somewhere on the Grand Street bridge in DUGSBO. Said border has moved around a bit over the years, as the political classes of both Boroughs vied for advantage over each other. Nearby Ridgewood has been claimed by both municipal entities over the years, for instance, as each attempted to increase its Congressional delegation or share of tax revenue from State or Federal government. This border dispute has become violent in the past, and it’s just a matter of time until another conflict springs up around the legislative demarcation. It would be a war of alliances, and entrenched positions, a grinding slaughterhouse which future generations might call – Brooklyn Queens War One, or BQW1.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

It has long been my supposition that were hostilities to break out between the two sides, the neighborhood of the Grand Street Bridge would form up the front line, functioning as a stand in for the Ardennes Forest as the setting for an unwanted but inevitable conflict. I’m sure that alliances would figure into this, eventually drawing the Bronx and Staten Island in. Manhattan would likely act as a war profiteer, selling weapons and intelligence to all sides. The random possibility of volunteer regiments from White Plains or Jersey City volunteering to fight is slim, but is definitively something for the Generals of both Borough Halls to figure into their strategic calculations. Last thing you’d want is a few hundred thousand fresh “Doughboys” showing up from Albany.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Eventually, even Nassau County would find itself having to choose sides, as refugees from Canarsie and Jamaica seeking to escape the shelling flooded into the relative safety of the eastern suburbs. The Brooklyn aligned forces would have a naval advantage, I’m sure, as Queens has been stripped of much of her maritime infrastructure. With the Bronx at her back, however, Queens aligned forces would make it quite costly for the BKSI soldiery or naval forces to capture even an inch of ground. Don’t forget, Queens has the rails, which means that large scale troop deployments and even rail based guns are possible. The Battle of the Queensbridge Houses would surely be reminiscent of Stalingrad, and the Battle of Breezy Point remembered as a tragedy for both sides. Perhaps the blasted heaths of crater scarred Hunters Point and an artillery blasted Greenpoint might serve as a cautionary tale for future generations.

Also, Queens has all the airports.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

March 12, 2014 at 11:53 am

stupendous spectacle

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If you smell something, say something.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

In January, the new DEP Sludge Boat Hunts Point was described in this Newtown pentacle posting.

The boat’s arrival was the first part of a complicated story, and the next chapter will involve some heavy equipment arriving on the Newtown Creek in around two weeks time. According to official sources, an oft rescheduled interval of municipal dredging will begin the week of March 17th, with the intention of opening a navigational channel for the new sludge boats from the East River, all the way back to Whale Creek at the sewer plant.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Concerns about odor and disposition of the materials removed from Newtown Creek have been largely dismissed by the mid level DEP personnel running the operation, although community groups like the Newtown Creek Monitoring Committee (this is one of the ones I’m “with”) have asked pointed questions and demanded that odor control procedures be put in place. The municipal contractor will be DonJon towing, and they will be equipped with some sort of foam based system to cover the Black Mayonnaise sediment when it’s deposited in a barge – should it begin to afflict the residential properties on either side of the Creek with a smell or odor issue.

DEP will be releasing a document next week, for “community outreach,” as it were. The word from on high is that 311 is primed to deal with odor complaints – so if you live in LIC or Greenpoint – If you smell something, say something and call 311 to complain. 

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Disturbingly, our commonly held employees at DEP do not wish to detail what will happen to the materials removed from the waterway. There was some discussion about the different end destinations for it – they considered several industrial facilities practiced in the handling and disposal of toxic sludge – but there has been stony silence in response to queries about the details of the plan.

How will the material be handled, upon Newtown Creek and beyond? Will it receive primary treatment in Greenpoint or in Queens or somewhere else? If it’s going to be along the Creek that the DonJon barges are emptied and cleaned, where will that happen? How will the material be transported out of the area – by truck, barge, or rail?

Our employees in municipal government have let us know that it’s really none of our business.

This is an important issue, as when EPA begins its dredging operation for the Superfund cleanup, they will likely look at the process which DEP created for this far smaller dredging effort. More to come on this one, Lords and Ladies.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

March 6, 2014 at 12:33 pm

The Newtown Creek “Magic Lantern” Show

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The Newtown Creek Magic lantern show returns, tomorrow night at Brooklyn Brainery.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

On February 27th, your humble narrator will be narrating humbly at the Brooklyn Brainery - here’s the details. This is the 2014 version of the thing, btw, updated with newly learned information and recently captured images. In the past, this photo presentation and info dump has been offered to political clubs, historical societies, and to the general public at a variety of venues.

Come with?

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Brooklyn Brainery is a swell operation, located in the nice part of Brooklyn nearby Grand Army Plaza and several Subway lines. I’ve worked with them a few times in the last year, doing walking tours, and they’re very cool folks. Also, the space they’re located in is very nice – physical comfort wise and such.

From their website -

We host classes about all sorts of things: from physics to Australian desserts, from HTML to shorthand and just about every nook and cranny in between.

All of our course topics are dreamed up and suggested by you, and our teachers are a group of awesome people from around Brooklyn and the whole city. Anyone can teach–you just need a passion for the topic and a desire to share it with others. We do all the planning, taking care of sign ups, marketing, and materials, so you can focus on the important stuff (teaching, duh).”

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The presentation will be about 2 hours long, with the actual slideshow and talk occupying roughly one and a half hours. What follows will be a Q&A session, wherein questions will be offered that a humble narrator will endeavor to intelligently answer. Brooklyn Brainery is asking $12 for the class.

There are still a few tickets left, so click on through and join the conversation about Newtown Creek on February 27th at 8 p.m.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

February 26, 2014 at 11:37 am

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