The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Posts Tagged ‘ny harbor

been decreed

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Scenes from the lugubrious Newtown Creek, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One had to go to Greenpoint to talk to a guy about a thing, recently. The guy in question was my colleague from Newtown Creek Alliance, Will Elkins, and the thing was to pick up some flyers he had printed up for the OHNY Plank Road event we conducted last weekend. We met at the North Brooklyn Boat Club location in Greenpoint’s DUPBO (Down Under the Pulaski Bridge Onramp) neighborhood, and soon I found myself catching a ride with him in a medium sized row boat – outfitted with an electric motor – plying the waters of Newtown Creek.

We were heading for the so called “Unnamed Canal” which is analogous to the intersection of Kingsland Avenue and North Henry Street, which sits alongside a relict DSNY marine waste transfer station. That’s where NCA’s “Living Dock” project is underway.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As the electric engine slowly but surely propelled us along, the FDNY’s “BATT” SAFE Boat (Callsign: WDG3982) appeared behind us. The SAFE Boat platform has been discussed numerous times at this – your Newtown Pentacle – over the years. It utilizes the “weapons platform” concept which has been in vogue in military circles for the last couple of decades, which dictates that you create a single superstructure which can accomplish a variety of basic missions and then customize it to the particular occupation of the user. The NYPD carry towing equipment, the FDNY has water monitors (nozzles that shoot water or foam), and the Coast Guard mounts M60 machine guns to them.

This creates an economy of scale for the procurement of basic replacement parts like screws and engine bits, and creates a large number of trained mechanics who can easily find employment based on their familiarity with the design. The SAFE Boats come in small, medium, and large. The BATT is of the “response boat small” type.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

By all appearances, the BATT was on patrol. It’s officially designated as a “Law Enforcement” vessel everywhere that I checked. Above, the BATT is depicted as proceeding eastward along the Newtown Creek, with LIC’s M1 industrial zone and the SimsMetal Newtown Creek Dock as a backdrop. Presumptively, they were on a regular patrol. It’s likely that this unit is based at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, although there are other Marine unit bases to the north where it might hail from.

As a note, I forgot to take the flyers from Mr. Elkins after returning to land and after having walked to Greenpoint from Astoria to get them. This is one of the many reasons that a humble narrator can best be described as an idiot.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 20, 2015 at 12:00 pm

forms strangely

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Fireboat 343, Hudson River.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned, one is taking a short break – hence the singular image which greets you above. Back soon with new stuff.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 12, 2015 at 11:00 am

swinging and plunging

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It’s all so depressing.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Not too long ago, a humble narrator left HQ and soon found himself at Hells Gate. One always finds it amazing how alone you can feel when surrounded by literally thousands of people, but there you go. Melancholy and regret notwithstanding, it was decided to sit down and watch the surrounding city for a spell from a stationary vantage point.

“Winter is coming” is what was on my mind.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Off in the distance – a tugboat was towing a barge down the East River from the direction of Flushing Bay, and since there was literally nowhere else for me to go, I sat and waited for it to transit.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The tug was the McAllister Girls. The fuel barge it was towing was clearly empty, given how high it was riding in the swirling maelstroms of the Hells Gate section of the estuarine East River.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The background was provided by the DEP’s Wards Island plant, where centrifugal machinery separates a pestilence of filth out of a watery solution which the sewer people refer to as “honey” but the rest of just call “sludge.” In NY Harbor, it is difficult to avoid fecal matter, as the harbor is full of it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The currents in this section of the river, spanned by both Triborough and Hell Gate bridges, are notorious and powerful. Once, Hells Gate was a breaker of ships and consumer of lives, before the Army Corps of Engineers exploded the underwater geology which promulgated the formation of whirlpools and ripping tides.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Even today, it takes a bit of skill – and a powerful set of engines – for Mariners to conquer the cross currents and tidal action of Hells Gate. It’s nowhere close to the historical force of water, spoken about with awe and respect by sailors in the historical record, but this stretch of the river is still fairly treacherous.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

McAllister Girls, of course, managed Hells Gate with little trouble. The tug and barge continued along, entering the east channel of the river and continuing along to the south. Likely, she was headed for Kill Van Kull or Arthur Kill to drop off the empty barge and begin the process of moving another full one to some farm of coastal fuel tanks.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It was all pretty depressing though. Winter is coming.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

October 10th, 2015
Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour
with Atlas Obscura, click here for details and tickets

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 1, 2015 at 2:30 pm

hewing in

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A few shots from the Great North River Tugboat Race, in today’s post

– photo by Mitch Waxman

When the wheel of the year rolls around to Labor Day weekend, a humble narrator always has plans.

The Great North River Tugboat Race, produced by the Working Harbor Committee, occurs on the Sunday of Labor Day weekend. This year, 12 tugs raced from the boat basin at 79th street (well, Pier I, technically) to 42nd street right by the Intrepid. The winner, I believe, was the red McAllister tug pictured above.

Why not swing over to working harbor to check out the official results? My colleague John Skelson also has a whole series of shots of the race running there as well.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After the race, the tugs get into a “tug of war” competition. They go nose to nose and push each other around. This contest is about a lot more than just raw horsepower, it’s about the skill of the captains and how they handle their boats.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Far and away, my favorite part of the Great North River Tugboat Race is the line toss competition. During this part of the event, the tugs come in at speed towards a bollard on the pier, and deckhands throw the heavy rope at it in an attempt to “get it in one.”

There’s also a spinach eating competition, because as every sailor knows – you’re strong to the finach if you eats your spinach.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

September 20th, 2015
Glittering Realms Walking Tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, click here for details and tickets

four winds

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New York Harbor, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Sunday last was the Waterfront Alliance’s “City of Water Day” and your humble narrator conducted a free Newtown Creek boat tour for the festival. My tour was one of several that emanated from Governors Island, but “City of Water Day” is a citywide event and there were all kinds of interesting diversions happening in every Borough. Governors Island is a bit of a pain to get to, but luckily, after concluding my duties – an East River Ferry was just about to exit the island and then follow it’s normally scheduled itinerary, which includes a stop in LIC at Hunters Point. Deciding to “get out of dodge” and head home, and possessed of a serious desire to not get on the Subway, the ferry seemed like an ideal option.

One purchased a ticket and hopped onboard, brandished the camera, and waved it about as the boat headed North along the East River.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Along the way, a United States Coast Guard Cutter was spotted. It’s decidedly irregular to see a white hulled Coast Guard vessel in this part of NY Harbor (white hulls are generally assigned to ocean going vessels in the Coast Guard). You’ll regularly see black hulls during winter months (ice breakers) and orange hulls do harbor security work all year long so they’re commonly observed.

One suspects that the Cutter was in the inner harbor because the President happened to be in NYC on “City of Water Day,” and they were performing some sort of security job but that’s a guess.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the CGC Ridley (WPB 87328), an 87-foot Coastal Patrol Boat Marine Protector Class vessel. She’s based in Long Island Sound, and everything you could possibly want to know about her can be found at this page at uscg.mil.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The East River Ferry continued along its normal route, offering the usual fantastic views which have gained it a dedicated clientele amongst the hordes of tourists which populate it on weekends. Offered above is a shot of the Freedom Tower rising behind Moisef’s Manhattan Bridge, as observed from onboard.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

July 26th, 2015
Modern Corridor – LIC, Queens Walking Tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, click here for details and tickets.

As detailed in this recent post, my camera was destroyed in an accident.

For those of you who have offered donations to pay for its replacement, the “Donate” button below will take you to paypal. Any contributions to the camera fund will be greatly appreciated, and rewarded when money isn’t quite as tight as it is at the moment.

Donate Button with Credit Cards

shore road

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As detailed in this recent post, my camera was destroyed in an accident.

For those of you who have offered donations to pay for its replacement, the “Donate” button below will take you to paypal. Any contributions to the camera fund will be greatly appreciated, and rewarded when money isn’t quite as tight as it is at the moment.

Donate Button with Credit Cards

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In addition to every thing else going on in a humble narrator’s life, a full on kitchen renovation project is playing out in Newtown Pentacle HQ. Our landlord graciously decided to upgrade the physical environs hereabouts, and budgeted for new cabinetry and the services of my upstairs neighbors – who are construction guys. They are actually doing a fantastic job, but since our little dog Zuzu is the curious type, one has been stuck indoors for the better part of the last week in pursuance of her not getting built into a cabinet or something.

Last weekend, Our Lady of the Pentacle assumed the duty, and one was free to wander about in the concrete devastations for a short interval. Of course, my feet carried me to my absolute favorite of Newtown Creek’s tributaries – Dutch Kills in LIC. That’s where I observed a family of Snowy Egrets working the waterway.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There were a couple of juvenile egrets there, so one presumes that this was a family. Shortly after the shot above was acquired, a Red Tail Hawk appeared. Startled, the Egrets scattered, and I decided to head over to Hunters Point Avenue to see if they were still hanging around Dutch Kills.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The adult Egret had relocated to the west side of the waterway, and was hunting from atop a sediment mound. Believe it or not, there’s a ton of fish and other critters in the water here, all of which would make a nice snack for one of these latter day archosaurs. One such as myself is easily bored, however, so I moved on.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Crossing the Hunters Point Avenue bridge, and looking south towards the Long Island Expressway and infinite Brooklyn, I noticed that there was a bit of a hub bub down in the water.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Like a pack of tiny sharks, a school of fishes were ripping bits off of some dead thing floating in the water.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Probably, this critter was once a bird. Possibly a rat, but it kind of looks “birdy” to me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A near “100%” crop of the shot doesn’t reveal too much about the dead thing, I’m afraid, other than that it had become fish food. Nature is lovely to behold and all, but don’t forget that the singular goal of every thing that lives is ultimately to digest every other thing that lives. A waterway is in many ways a giant open stomach, or in the case of Dutch Kills – a giant open lower intestine.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

July 18th, 2015
Newtown Creek City of Water Day Boat Tour 
with Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance, click here for details and tickets.

July 26th, 2015
Modern Corridor – LIC, Queens Walking Tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, click here for details and tickets.

fare together

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As detailed in this recent post, my camera was destroyed in an accident.

For those of you who have offered donations to pay for its replacement, the “Donate” button below will take you to paypal. Any contributions to the camera fund will be greatly appreciated, and rewarded when money isn’t quite as tight as it is at the moment.

Donate Button with Credit Cards

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Thursday last, the new camera got its first real workout on the Working Harbor Committee trip to Port Elizabeth Newark. Despite being largely the same device as the shattered and well weathered one (the firmware is a bit different, however, offering a couple of bells and whistles which weren’t present on the original) one opted to work the scenery encountered with a certain ferocity.

The Kill Van Kull tidal strait leads to Port Elizabeth Newark, which is the principal cargo port for the North Eastern United States. This is pretty familiar turf for me, and when I got onboard the NY Waterways ferry which WHC had chartered, forefront in my mind was the desire to come back with something a bit visually different from what I normally do.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The weather was not conducive to the “lurid shimmering of pale light” thing which typifies most of the maritime shots I produce. It was dark, due to threatening storm clouds, and kind of misty. Luckily, it wasn’t a “precipitating mist” wherein the moisture suspended in the air congeals onto any available surface. Instead, this was a light eating atmosphere. As my long lost pal Bernie would have advised – “use it” – so I went for composition and shadows of oily density. That’s the Port Authority’s Bayonne Bridge from the Newark Bay side, by the way.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A trip down the Kill Van Kull is remarkable only when you don’t see tugboats at work. The busy waterway is a 24/7 conveyor belt of maritime industrial goodness, with titan cargo ships and other vessels plying its length. Pictured above is the DonJon Towing company’s Meghan Ann driving a barge of scrap metal towards the port facilities. I can only presume, based on experience, that the tug was coming from my beloved Newtown Creek.

Speaking of Newtown Creek, confirmation that I’ll be conducting a free boat tour on Saturday as part of the City of Water Day event conducted by the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance arrived. Click the link below to get onboard.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

July 18th, 2015
Newtown Creek City of Water Day Boat Tour 
with Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance, click here for details and tickets.

July 26th, 2015
Modern Corridor – LIC, Queens Walking Tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, click here for details and tickets.

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