The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘Williamsburg

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Conspiracy in North Brooklyn?

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Pictured above is the FDNY’s Firefighter 2 Fireboat dousing the remains of a document storage warehouse at North 11th street right at the border of Greenpoint and Williamsburg. The building is likely a total loss and will be probably be demolished, as this was a seven alarm “all hands fire” which required the attentions of more than 200 Firefighters to control. It’s eerily similar to the Greenpoint Terminal Market fire, which “Grenperntners” will eagerly describe as an arson job designed to clear the way for real estate development. FDNY investigators described the Greenpoint Terminal Market event as an accident brought on by a homeless man’s campfire.

There’s a few conspiracy theories already forming around CitiStorage, which I’ll pass on with the caveat that these are “conspiracy theories” and nothing resembling the final analysis of what happened will be available for months until after the FDNY investigators pronounce judgement.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The first conspiracy theory is alluded to above, and declares that the Real Estate Industrial Complex was hungry for this valuable piece of land on Brooklyn’s Gold Coast. Arsonists were sent in to get rid of the structure, which is why the fire had two distinct ignition events. To me, this one doesn’t hold water, as it’s far simpler for the REIC to legally gain possession of anything they want simply by pushing the right political buttons. Look at Willets Point, or Atlantic Yards, or Hudson Yards for examples of the vulgar display of their power. This “burn out” concept used to be a thing, during the 1970’s, 80’s, and 90’s, incidentally.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The second theory requires a bit of context to fully appreciate. The documents storage facility which went up in flames housed, amongst other things, court and hospital records for the City. The Albany scandal revolving around Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver accuses him of various improprieties regarding referrals to a personal injury law firms, from which he personally profited. The conspiracy theory is that somebody torched this place to protect the former “most powerful man in New York” from some revelation or “smoking gun” which Federal investigators might have found there. Again, a conspiracy theory, not a conclusion.

from nytimes.com

Those that said they had records stored in the warehouse, which occupies nearly half a square block, included the state court system, the city Administration for Children’s Services, the city Health and Hospitals Corporation, and members of the Greater New York Hospital Association.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Whatever happened, the toxic plume of smoke from the fire has been painting the neighborhoods surrounding this spot at Bushwick Inlet for a couple of days. I was able to smell it in Astoria just last night, and as one approached the spot in Greenpoint where the shots above were captured, it was inescapable and somewhat nauseating. Pictured above is what the scene looked like in 2013, incidentally, sans conflagration.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 2, 2015 at 12:30 pm

fled absurdly

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Break time.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

A single image greets you this morning, as will be the case through the Thanksgiving holiday.

A humble narrator requires a break periodically, to recharge and reinvent. Worry not, however, for pithy commentary and puckish intent returns on the Monday following Thanksgiving – the first of December.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

November 21, 2014 at 11:00 am

inexpressibly more

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This actually and absolutely astounds one such as myself.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Wandering from Red Hook back to Astoria around a week ago, your humble narrator found himself on the south side of Williamsburg at the triangle formed by Wythe, Heyward, and Wallabout. This splinter of a building is rising up from a paved triangle which is created by the ancient paths surrounding it. A tiny three story house, it just seems… wow, in Williamsburg, every patch of soil will have apartments on it pretty soon. Wow.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Based on the number of entrances, this has to be a three unit building presumptively? A basement, a first floor, and then a duplex upstairs? Then again, the stairs on the Heyward (left) side might be a common entrance with internal stairs? Talk about an efficiency apartment. Sheesh. Check it out in google street view (this is a very new building, doesn’t even seem to have an address yet) to get an idea of the actual size of this lot – which is just bigger than five parking spots for cars.

Note: I did try to find a street address on this structure at NYC DOB, where I was easily defeated and gave up without trying too hard.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

By the way, there’s two cool Working Harbor Committee events going on this weekend you might want to attend.

Saturday, the 30th is a Port Newark excursion onboard the Circle Line with Captain John Doswell, Ed Kelly of the Maritime Association of Port of NY/NJ and Maggie Flanagan – Marine Educator South Street Seaport Museum. The boat boards at 10:30, sails at 11, and returns at 1:30. Click here for more info and tix.

Sunday, the 31st is the annual Great North River Tugboat Race and Competition. 10:00 AM – Parade of tugs from Pier 84 to the start line. 10:30 AM – Race starts – From South of 79th Street Boat Basin (near Pier I) to Pier 84. 11 AM – Nose to nose pushing contests and line toss competition. Noon – Tugs tie up to Pier 84 for lunch and awards ceremony. Exhibits, amateur line toss, spinach eating contest 1 PM – Awards ceremony. Tugs depart at about 2 PM.

For tix on the spectator boat, click here.

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lean notary

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Shots from all over the edge of a Long Island.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Over at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, a cargo ship was unloading a load of concrete manufacture supplies. The ship was performing the unloading process all by itself, with a series of swing out booms and cranes with mechanical buckets and shovels all busily employed. These shots were all gathered during the Solstice, when everything looks a bit ethereal, as the burning thermonuclear eye of god itself is in its position of annual primacy over the megalopolis.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

You can’t see the Williamsburg Bridge lit like this during winter time, as the angle of the burning thermonuclear eye of god itself is considerably less efficacious. My camera’s color and light meters were all over the place when I shot these, as what would normally be thought of as afternoon lighting lasted well past 6 pm – I think this particular shot was from around 6:30-7. Notice the wild angle that the light is falling at – longest day of the year light.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

This is from pretty late in the day, as the burning thermonuclear eye of god itself is finally slipping down past the shield wall of Manhattan. It depicts my beloved Newtown Creek, as shot from a familiar spot on the Pulaski Bridge. It’s a handheld shot, and is a bit grainy, but there was just something wonderful about the scene – couldn’t resist.

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There are two Newtown Creek walking tours coming up.

Saturday, June 28th, The Poison Cauldron
With Atlas Obscura, click here for tickets and more info.

Sunday, June 29th, The Insalubrious Valley
With Brooklyn Brainery, lunch included, click here for tickets and more info.

complicated padlock

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Williamsburgh Savings Bank, part 2.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

In yesterday’s post -gleaming sands” – the story of the Williamsburgh Savings Bank building at 175 Broadway in Brooklyn was described in some detail. As promised, in today’s post, a few more shots from inside the recently restored structure.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

In the middle of the room is an ornate safe, which attracted no small amount of attention from the crowd that Atlas Obscura had brought in. This looked like the sort of safe which a cowboy might attempt to open with dynamite in a western movie.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

We were told that the safe is of European make and design, manufactured specifically in France. Of course, that’s 1875 France, which was a very different France than the one which we’re stuck with today.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

On the inside of the door were two medallions, which were “maker’s marks.”

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Emperor Napoleon the Third is commemorated on one of them.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Alongside the safe was a mechanism which acted as a sort of intercom to other sections of the building. This is not an electronic system, it should be noted, you simply spoke or whistled into the appropriate tube.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The domes kept on gathering my attention. The ornamentation and detail up there were incredible. Your humble narrator is still analyzing the iconography contained therein.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 19, 2014 at 11:44 am

gleaming sands

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How the other half lives, in today’s post.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

My pals at Atlas Obscura rang me up and asked if I’d be interested in shooting at one of their events in Brooklyn, and since this offered an opportunity to leave the house (a rare treat during this winter of frozen discontent), I packed up Our Lady of the Pentacle and my camera bag and we set off for Williamsburg. Now, I don’t spend a lot of time around these parts, can’t afford it, but its also nice to see how the other half lives.

from wikipedia

Williamsburg is a neighborhood of 113,000 inhabitants in the New York City borough of Brooklyn, bordering Greenpoint to the north, Bedford–Stuyvesant to the south, Bushwick and Ridgewood, Queens to the east and the East River to the west. The neighborhood is part of Brooklyn Community Board 1. The neighborhood is served by the New York Police Department (NYPD)’s 90th Precinct. In the City Council, the western and southern part of the neighborhood is represented by the 33rd District; and the eastern part of the neighborhood is represented by the 34th District.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

This is the Williamsburgh Savings Bank building at 175 Broadway, a building erected just 10 years after the Civil War. A famous structure, its the domed building you can’t help but notice when exiting the Williamsburg Bridge, at least when you’re on the Brooklyn side.

from wikipedia

The Williamsburgh Savings Bank was an important institution in Brooklyn, New York, from the mid-19th to the mid-20th centuries. A series of bank mergers brought it into the HSBC group late in the 20th century. (It is not to be confused with the nearby Dime Savings Bank of Williamsburgh, now known simply as the DIME, a rival local institution that has remained independent.) It is best remembered for two imposing headquarters buildings still standing, the domed original at 175 Broadway in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, designed by George B. Post, and the later Williamsburgh Savings Bank Tower.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

As transmitted by our hosts, the tale of the WSB includes decades of neglect, wear, and tear. The current owners acquired it just a few years ago (and of course it was controversial, it’s in North Brooklyn, not Queens) and set upon a radical architectural restoration of the bank. Pictured is the meticulous work found on the first of the interior domes.

from nyc-architecture.com

To build a new edifice for the WBS the board of trustees hired George B. Post (1837-1913), a man who had just finished the important Equitable Life Assurance Building (1868-1870), was at present finishing the Western Union Building (1873-1875), and who would later go on to design the icon of money, the market, and capitalism in 1903. Architecturally speaking and with vast hindsight, it was upon the hiring of Post that the WBS secured itself as a structural institution and landmark in Brooklyn. For it is through the tie to its architect that this structurally impressive building gains even more notoriety; George B. Post would later go on to design City College (1886-1906), the Brooklyn Historical Society (1881), the New York Stock Exchange (1903), and other notable buildings throughout the country.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

There were three buildings here, the 1875 original and an early 20th century addition (1906, I think) – both domed – and a 1940’s era office building of pedestrian design. The domed buildings were landmarked, but the office building was not and it was torn down. There are plans to erect a modern hotel on the property, a mammoth 40 story affair. The former bank will act as an event space for the hotel.

for a Landmarks Preservation Committee document generated by municipal authorities back in 1996, click here.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

This is the second dome, which I seem to recall as being of 1906 vintage, but might be misstating the date. The oculus in the center was actually boarded up during the Second World War and remained so until the restoration process began. In case you’re curious, yes, I laid down on the floor in the center of the room and shot straight up.

from ny.curbed.com

When Brooklyn hostel owner Juan Figueroa purchased the Williamsburgh Savings Bank for $4.5 million in 2010, the rumor was that he planned to convert the historic bank building into a hotel. That would have been difficult, though, since the structure is an exterior, interior, and national landmark. The actual plan, it turned out, was to meticulously restore it and turn it into an event space and banquet hall, and place a 40-story hotel right next door.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The other half lives in Williamsburg, I’m told. The Brooklyn patois pronunciation for this neighborhood is “Willemsboig” and my parents – who used to bank with the company once located here – called it “Da Willemsboig Savins Banks.” They stayed with the company all the way till it became HSBC. That’s brand loyalty, folks. Back tomorrow with a few more shots from within the lush interior, including some details on the vault.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 18, 2014 at 7:30 am

existing make

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

Normally, with this being Saturday and all, you’d find a photo of a Firebox in some godforsaken locale displayed prominently and spoken about in glowing terms.

Since it’s August, and that means vacation lazy time, let’s take this week off from “Project Firebox” and instead visit with the FDNY Marine 1 at Wallabout Bay.

The unit housed therein have several historic fireboats in their inventory. That’s the Governor Alfred E. Smith fireboat pictured above, for instance.

from marine1fdny.com

Marine 1 was the first Marine Company formed in the City of New York. We have moved several times over the years (find out more on our history page). We are on call and respond to 560 miles of waterfront surrounding the City of New York. These waterways are among the busiest in the world, used for both shipping and enjoyment. Along with the other two fireboats and a total of four small rapid response boats, we protect the people of New York as well as those visitors who are just passing through.

Marine 1 is manned by a crew of seven; an officer, a pilot, two engineers, and two firefighters.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Those are the Firefighter and John D. McKean fireboats, both longtime veterans of the harbor which have passed out of useful duty. Firefighter 2 is the sister ship of the futuristic Three Forty Three, and Firefighter 1 is already retired.

Just a short visit to the Wallabout today, go outside and play some ball or something, don’t waste the entire summer sitting inside surfing the net.

from wikipedia

Fire Fighter, also known as Firefighter, is a fireboat serving the New York City Fire Department. She was an active fireboat serving as Marine Company 9 until being retired in 2010. She was the most powerful diesel-electric fireboat when built in 1938. She has fought more than 50 fires, including upon the SS Normandie in 1942.

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August 5th, 2012- Newtown Creek Alliance Walking Tour- The Insalubrious Valley- Tomorrow

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Newtown Creek Alliance historian Mitch Waxman will be leading a walk through the industrial heartlands of New York City, exploring the insalubrious valley of the Newtown Creek.

The currently undefended border of Brooklyn and Queens, and the place where the Industrial Revolution actually happened, provides a dramatic and picturesque setting for this exploration. We’ll be visiting two movable bridges, the still standing remains of an early 19th century highway, and a forgotten tributary of the larger waterway. As we walk along the Newtown Creek and explore the “wrong side of the tracks” – you’ll hear tales of the early chemical industry, “Dead Animal and Night Soil Wharfs”, colonial era heretics and witches and the coming of the railroad. The tour concludes at the famed Clinton Diner in Maspeth- where scenes from the Martin Scorcese movie “Goodfellas” were shot.

Lunch at Clinton Diner is included with the ticket.

Details/special instructions.

Meetup at the corner of Grand Street and Morgan Avenue in Brooklyn at 11 a.m. on August 5, 2012. The L train serves a station at Bushwick Avenue and Grand Street, and the Q54 and Q59 bus lines stop nearby as well. Check MTA.info as ongoing weekend construction often causes delays and interruptions. Drivers, it would be wise to leave your vehicle in the vicinity of the Clinton Diner in Maspeth, Queens or near the start of the walk at Grand St. and Morgan Avenue (you can pick up the bus to Brooklyn nearby the Clinton Diner).

Be prepared: We’ll be encountering broken pavement, sometimes heavy truck traffic as we move through a virtual urban desert. Dress and pack appropriately for hiking, closed-toe shoes are highly recommended.

Clinton Diner Menu:

  • Cheese burger deluxe
  • Grilled chicken over garden salad
  • Turkey BLT triple decker sandwich with fries
  • Spaghetti with tomato sauce or butter
  • Greek salad medium
  • Greek Salad wrap with French fries
  • Can of soda or 16oz bottle of Poland Spring

for August 5th tickets, click here for the Newtown Creek Alliance ticketing page

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