The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘Working Harbor Committee

decadent element

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Bayonne Bridge progress, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A recent Working Harbor Committee excursion, one of our education tours for kids (typically inner city teenagers who are introduced to the idea of a career on the water or at the ports by Martime professionals and Coast Guard Officers whom we bring onboard) headed out to Port Elizabeth Newark. These kids tours are what WHC is really about, and the public tours we do are actually fundraisers that support these other efforts.

Your humble narrator was onboard solely to photograph this time around, and I soon found myself focusing in on the Bayonne Bridge reconstruction project.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There are three major bridge projects underway in NY Harbor at the moment – two are replacements (Kosciuszko Bridge at Newtown Creek, and Tappan Zee over the Hudson) and the third is a retrofit – Bayonne Bridge.

In the case of Othmar Amman’s masterful Bayonne Bridge, the roadway is being raised to allow a new class of cargo ship access to the Port Newark terminals and it’s the BB’s owner which is running the show – The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Bayonne Bridge spans the Kill Van Kull, connecting Staten Island’s North Shore to New Jersey. Just beyond it is the busiest cargo operation in the North Eastern United States. The continuing modernization of global container based shipping operations has created a sort of arms race to see how big a cargo ship can get (economy of scale) and the most recent iterations of these giants cannot cross under the roadway. In order to remain economically viable, the Port Authority has been forced to redesign the bridge so as to accommodate these larger vessels.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s all sorts of “big industry” involved in this sort of undertaking, and in the shot above and below, you will observe a “beam spreader.” It’s job is to hoist the sections of approach roadway into place and hold them steady while crews of workers secure them to both the pylons which will support them and to the previous sections already installed.

You can see the difference in altitude between the old and new roadway in the shot above, with the older approach visible to the right hand side of the shot, backed up by the Freedom Tower.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After decades of inertia, wherein the various governmental entities found here in the megalopolis barely had the funding to perform basic maintenance on the various bits of infrastructure which make it possible to move people and commerce around, it’s actually startling to see so much of it going on all at once.

There is no investment more prosaic to make than in infrastructure. Unfortunately, in the case of all three bridge projects mentioned, none of them have avoided the mistakes of the House of Moses and incorporated a light rail line or any sort of mass transit into their modernizations. We are reinforcing and advancing the age of the Automobile.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Still, as I’m sure the crew of the James E. Brown tugboat would say about the project – “I feel good.”

Sorry – could not resist the pun.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Bayonne Bridge project is ongoing, and will continue to be documented at this – your Newtown Pentacle.

For more on the Bayonne Bridge project, direct from the “horse’s mouth” as it were – check out this page at the Port a Authority’s website.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

August 8th, 2015
13 Steps Around Dutch Kills – LIC Walking Tour
with Atlas Obscura, 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.

quaint fusion

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Shots from a recent boat trip to the Gowanus.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A few weeks back, I conducted the Working Harbor Committee Newtown Creek boat tour, which was followed by an excursion to the Gowanus Canal. Both boats were solidly packed with harbor enthusiasts, curious explorers who welcomed the opportunity to visit some of NY Harbor’s less well known spots. Obviously, I didn’t get any shots on the Newtown Creek tour (my curse) but since my pals Joseph Alexiou and Eymund Diegel were handling the narration on the Gowanus trip, I was able to have some #superfun for once.

Pictured above, the push boat Emerald Coast in Gowanus Bay.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

John Quadrozzi Jr. was also onboard, and he jumped onto the microphone once or twice during the voyage. Seeing as how JQJr. actually owns big giant chunks of Gowanus Bay, he had a few things to say about this and that – offering the Working Harbor audience insider insights from his unique point of view.

One of the “this’s” Mr. Quadrozzi discussed was his Grain Terminal building, and one of the “that’s” was the ship Loujaine – both pictured above.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I do like the point of view one is offered by the entrance to the Gowanus Canal, don’t forget that Gowanus Bay is kind of a separate banana from the Gowanus Canal, whose navigable entry point is found at the Hamilton Avenue Bridge.

That hulking monstrosity you’ll notice lurking above the bridge, in all its neighborhood blighting glory, is the Gowanus Expressway.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Our vessel’s passage required the Hamilton Avenue Bridge to open, and while we waited for the redoubtable employees of the NYC DOT to actuate its mechanisms, I noticed this bit of former maritime industrial glory sitting on the poison shoreline. First thought that entered my head when I saw it was “this is the dreidel of the gods.” For those of you reading this who are “goyem,” a dreidel is that little Jewish spinning top thing with the Hebrew lettering on it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The HMS Liberty, observed as it passes by the SimsMetal facility and a windmill on the southern shore of Gowanus Bay. Liberty is a tugboat, as opposed to the Emerald Coast found in the first shot of today’s post – which is a push boat. Both are towing vessels, of course, and tug versus push is pretty descriptive of the different approaches to the mission which they’re engineered for.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

June 20th, 2015
Kill Van Kull Walking Tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, click here for details and tickets.

hither come

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Get on the boat, for #superfun with the Working Harbor Committee.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On May 31, I’ll be narrating on a boat tour of Newtown Creek for the Working Harbor Committee. WHC is offering a special $30 ticket price, discounted to $25 for seniors. It’s a two hour tour which will leave from Pier 11 in Manhattan at 11 a.m. I’m anticipating having a couple of other guest speakers onboard, but that’s still firming up.

For tix to WHC’s morning tour with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman, on Newtown Creek. For group rates, or questions – contact Working Harbor Committee at workingharbor@aol.com

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Maritime History of Newtown Creek is one largely forgotten in these decadent times, but even now an odd tugboat and barge might be spied making their way down the waterway on any given day. 19th century Property owners were considered to have been blessed by some of the finest industrial bulkheads in the world, yet many of the businesses based along the Creek today ignore this invaluable resource, allowing their waterfront property to decay and decline.

Along these bulkheads, great fortunes have risen.

Amongst others- Peter Cooper (BO Railroad, Canton Iron, and Cooper Union), Charles Pratt (Astral Oil, Standard Oil, and Pratt University), and ultimately John D. Rockefeller (Standard Oil) – all grew richer than the dreams of avarice in this place. Alongside them, the darkest mills of the industrial revolution- rendering plants, yeast distilleries, bone blackers, and acid factories provided tens of thousands of jobs to the immigrant populations of Brooklyn and Queens. Today – National Grid, BP, Amoco, ExxonMobil, and a host of other multinational companies still maintain an enormous investment in this valuable industrial canal at the very center of New York City.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Vast operations will be witnessed by those onboard, many of which are involved in the scrap metal and recyclables trade. Responsible for an enormous amount of cross harbor shipping, companies such as SimsMetal are heavily reliant on the maritime trades for their economic success. This is also the the birthplace of Mobil Oil, and was the home base in NYC for the Standard Oil Company.

Not all that long ago, Newtown Creek carried a greater tonnage of cargo than the entire Mississippi River.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A tributary of the estuarine East River, Newtown Creek extends some 3.8 miles from its junction with the more familiar waterway, and provides demarcation for the currently undefended border of much of Brooklyn and Queens. Named to the Federal Superfund list in 2010, the Creek suffers from a centuries long history of environmental degradation and municipal neglect.

An era of great change is upon the Newtown Creek, and this trip will be one of your last chances to be exposed to it in its current form.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

May 3, 2015 –
DUBPO, Down Under the Pulaski Bridge Onramp
with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman, a free tour offered as part of Janeswalk 2015, click here for tickets.

May 31, 2015 –
Newtown Creek Boat Tour
with Working Harbor Committee and Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman, click here for tickets.

#SUPERFUN on May 31

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Welcome to Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As promised – the big Monday Announcement!!! On May 31, I’ll be narrating on a boat tour of Newtown Creek for the Working Harbor Committee. WHC is offering a special $30 ticket price, discounted to $25 for seniors. It’s a two hour tour which will leave from Pier 11 in Manhattan at 11 a.m. I’m anticipating having a couple of other guest speakers onboard, but I’m still firming that up.

For tix’s to WHC’s morning tour with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman, on Newtown Creek. For group rates, or questions – contact Working Harbor Committee at workingharbor@aol.com

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So what could be more fun than visiting a superfund site? Visiting two, of course.

A separate and distinct excursion will leave from Pier 11 at 1:10 p.m., as Working Harbor Committee’s afternoon trip to the Gowanus Canal embarks. Last I heard, it’s the same deal as Newtown Creek for pricing and tix, and it’s a two hour tour as well.

Click here for tix to WHC’s afternoon tour of the Gowanus Canal.

Newtown Creek is better, of course, because it’s mine.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Captain Doswell

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Captain John Doswell has passed away.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Executive Director of the Working Harbor Committee, Captain John Doswell’s mission was to educate the public about the Harbor of New York and New Jersey. He was a part owner of the John J. Harvey fireboat, a respected speaker on all things maritime, a devoted husband and father, and my friend.

He died as he lived, surrounded by the family he so adored.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After serving in the United States Navy in Viet Nam, Captain Doswell produced trade shows and industrial videos, eventually finding himself in the software business. In the mid 1990’s Captain Doswell shifted his attentions to the waterfront.

Pictured above is how I’ll always remember him, narrating to a sold out boat, explaining every little nuance of what they were seeing at Port Newark, or circumnavigating Staten Island, or while exploring Erie Basin.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

He worked with the Friends of Hudson River Park and the Working Harbor Committee – and a host of elected officials – to bring New Yorkers into closer contact with the water. Captain Doswell coordinated and organized the maritime operations of OpSail 2012, the City of Water Day festivals on Governors Island, the Liberty Challenge International Outrigger Canoe Races, and literally dozens of Working Harbor trips and the annual Great North River Tugboat Race.

He would also regularly send a NY Water Taxi, with some lunatic blogger on the mike, to Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

John Doswell built communities wherever he went. Once you found yourself in his orbit, there was always something amazing going on around him. He was generous with his time, and renowned for an even temperament. It was an honor to know him, and the privilege of having spent as much time as I did with him over the last few years is an incalculable blessing.

The world is a poorer place without him. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Captain John Doswell is survived by his beloved, Jean Preece Doswell, and their daughter Jhoneen. The event of the year for the NY Harbor Community in 2014 was their wedding on July 25 of last year. The NY Times ran a full profile of the event here, which was held on the John J Harvey Fireboat and Lilac – historic vessels which Captain Doswell helped to preserve.

I’m going to miss him. 

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

January 5, 2015 at 11:00 am

impelled to

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As promised, shots from the Tug race in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last Sunday, the Working Harbor Committee organized this years iteration of the Great North River Tug Race and Competition. A multi pronged assault on the brain’s fun center, it starts with a race that begins at the 79th creek boat basin on the Hudson River. The finish line is at 42nd street, and this year the Robert McAllister tug won. Someday, I’d like to win something, but the only thing I’ve ever been good at winning is being a good loser.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The fun center of the brain is something which I’m fairly sure has withered away within my own skull, likely due to some unheralded ischemic event. Suspecting that my fun center has been “stroked out” of operation, it’s no surprise that the dull and quite existential horrors which typify my days were only briefly punctured by the “tug of war” nose to nose pushing competition segment of the event. It’s all so depressing.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Once, this sort of thing would have caused my mouth to form into a horrible gap toothed shape which could be roughly interpreted by others as being a smile. Now, there is only a flat affect and an abundance of dull eyed staring, I’m afraid. At least I can still work the camera, but can’t seem to distinguish the difference between sweet and sour tastes anymore. It takes sewerage or burning plastic for me to take notice of smell or taste these days.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The part of the Tug Race which I’ve always loved photographing, if that’s an emotion I can still experience, is the line toss. The various tugs form a queue and then hurtle at the pier, whereupon they hurl a rope at a bollard. The goal is to loop the rope onto the bollard and the throwers are rated for time and accuracy. I wish I could tell you who won, but a group of teenagers scared me so I headed home and locked my doors securely, back in Astoria where I belong.

The entire race set can be viewed at this flickr page.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

This weekend-

Saturday, September 6th, The Insalubrious Valley of the the Newtown Creek
Walking Tour with Atlas Obscura, click here for tickets and more info.

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 5, 2014 at 12:29 pm

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