The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

obviously recent

with one comment

End to end, and where your poop goes, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s a view of the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant over in Greenpoint, the newest and largest of NYC’s 14 sewer plants. The eight egg shaped structures which define the facility are bio digesters. What that means is that they contain cultures, in industrial amounts, of the same bacteria that the human gut carries. After undergoing several stages of filtration – mechanical, aeration, and so on – NYC’s brew of sewage and storm water is pumped into those eggs whereupon the bacteria go to work. The micro critters consume what’s left of nutrients in the “honey” (which is how the wastewater engineers of the DEP refer to the stuff) and both the digestive process and their biologies sterilize the stuff. The DEP spends a lot of time making sure that the environment inside the eggs is conducive to this biological action, which includes maintaining a constant interior temperature that matches that of the human body.

It seems that we humans have a remarkably inefficient gut, which is why we fart when consuming too much food. So too, does the sewer plant get gassy.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Those four cylinders burn off the waste gases produced within the eggs, which largely take the form of Methane. As this turns the sewer plant in Greenpoint into one of the largest point sources of “greenhouse gases” in NYC, the DEP is working with the National Grid company in pursuance of harvesting the methane, which would be chemically modified a tad and added to National Grid’s “natural gas” supply and sold to customers. One is fairly familiar with both this partnership and the process, and the wheelings and dealings behind it, and it’s pretty problematic.

The alternative, however, is to do nothing and continue pumping millions of tons of methane into the atmosphere annually.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over in Manhattan, at the corner of East 13th and Avenue D, is the Manhattan Pump House. If you’re in the City and flush a toilet anywhere south of 79th street, your “product” is coming here. I’ve been inside this structure, which plunges multiple stories down into the ground (it’s actually deeper than it is tall). All of the “flow” goes into that cylindrical structure on the left side of the facility, which is called a “surge tower.” There’s a black maelstrom visible from the catwalk, which spirals down into a pipe laid across the bottom of the East River and then eastwards deep under Greenpoint and to the plant.

So, that’s where your poop goes.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 24, 2019 at 1:00 pm

reluctant glimpse

leave a comment »

Tomorrow, tomorrow… it’s only…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The weather has a humble narrator down, man. This constancy of daily thunderstorms has really thrown a wrench into the works, and I find myself wistfully thinking of the anthem from the Broadway Musical “Annie” – tomorrow, there’ll be sun… its only a day away. Problem is that “tomorrow never comes,” which leads me from Broadway hopefulness back to mid 1980’s punk. We haven’t seen the sun in so long at this point that mushrooms are growing on my back. I don’t even want to think about the conditions on my beloved Newtown Creek at this point, which must be historically swollen with sewage runoff by now.

Is it just me, or has this been the wettest couple of months in the last twenty years?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

All of this weather has really gotten in the way of things for me. I’m not entirely sure that you haven’t seen at least one of the shots in today’s post before, which is symptomatic of some of the dramatic issues thrown down in recent weeks by the various service providers used for delivering the blog. The whole flickr issue has been nothing but a pain in the neck, and I’m quite resentful of having to fork over a bunch of money to the site host in return for them not populating my posts with lowest common denominator advertising. The final straw on that front was the arrival of one of those javascript traps you commonly see at the NY Post website that takes over the screen and is designed to ensure that you have to click on it to get your screen back.

Congratulations, Apple user, you’ve won the day.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The forecast for the weekend seems to be looking up, however, so perhaps Annie is wiser than you’d normally expect. One plans on being “out there,” as I have no obligations other than to myself for a few days. I’m anxious to get out in the dark with the tripod as well, and resume the night photography work.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 21, 2019 at 1:00 pm

curious designs

leave a comment »

Jarring, ain’t it?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One thing I love about traveling around NYC on the water is the perspective offered. When you’re on the streets, alleys, or highways of the megalopolis it’s hard to see the big picture. The fact that the Real Estate Industrial Complex has never managed to convince the Mayors of NYC to pave over the rivers (the developers have tried, several times over the centuries, as a note, and have occasionally succeeded as with “Battery Park City”) allows the opportunity to observe the changing skyline. In the last twenty years, there’s been so much change – both by unfortunate circumstance as in the case of the Freedom Tower World Trade Center above, or through avarice as in the case of that weird apartment building with the leaky windows situated just to the right of it.

Before you ask… there was a plan floated in the 1930’s to pave over the Hudson and create an airport. The fellow running the design process for the quixotic Sunnyside Yards deck proposed filing in the East River between Lower Manhattan and Governor’s Island during the Bloomberg years in pursuance of creating a new neighborhood called “Lolo,” and the current Mayor of NYC wants to expand Manhattan into the Hudson and East River by about a half mile in the name of climate resiliency. A protective wall of condominiums to protect the Financial District.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The skyline of LIC is one of the most altered places in the entire City. Ten years ago, when I started consciously documenting the place, there were four large residential buildings in Hunters Point, and there was the Citibank Sapphire Megalith. Today, it’s hard to point out the megalith to passerby, as it’s been obscured in its primacy by new construction. There’s no talk, yet, of expanding the land into the water in LIC, but that’s because a compliant political establishment here in Queens welcomes the presence of Real Estate Industrial Complex activity in upland properties. Keep an eye on Northern Blvd. between Steinway Street and Woodside Avenue in the coming years.

Just the other night, somebody I know who’s a “player” here in Queens was opining that the recent alteration in rent regulations law that occurred in Albany signaled the end of big development and an impending cessation of new construction. He said that “all the big projects are going to stop, and the developers would be pulling out of preexisting arrangements.” Pfah.

As if.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Personally, I look forward to some future era when it doesn’t rain every day – but I find it difficult to believe that after expensively manipulating the City Planning process, and striking deals with every donation hungry advocacy and political organization you can imagine, paying architects and engineers – you’d pull out of the chance to reap the dreams of avarice. You invest a dollar in pursuance of it turning into a thousand dollars overnight, and then pull away from the deal because you’re only going to make $999 off the project?

There’s no crying in baseball.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

mahogany cabinet

with one comment

Ad free?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Extortion monies to WordPress have been paid out, and ostensibly, you should be enjoying an “advertising banner ad insertion free” experience here at Newtown Pentacle. If you see ads inserted into the flow of the post, in between paragraphs or drop down ads, please let me know. This cost me a few bucks to do, so if you want to help out with the cost, buy one of my books (link at bottom of post). I apologize for the annoyance over the last couple of months, and as mentioned, I was neither responsible for the ads nor profited off of them. So, there you are.

Also, man oh man, just check out the exhaust coming off of the NYC Ferry boat in the shot above. Why the design spec for these vessels didn’t include using LNG (Liquified Natural Gas) as a fuel source, I’ll never be able to guess. Well… that’s disingenuous, I actually know exactly why they used #2 fuel oil, but it still boggles that they didn’t adopt a fuel source that pumps out fewer airborne particulates for the ferry service.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s so many point sources for airborne pollution in NYC, they’re virtually uncountable. When I was a kid, it was still common practice for large apartment houses to operate trash incinerators. You’d routinely see black palls of smoke rising into the sky. There were also municipal incinerators at work, including the notable one in Greenpoint along my beloved Newtown Creek. Schools, City buildings, and a lot of private residences still used coal to power furnaces and boilers. At P.S. 208 on Avenue D in Brooklyn, we’d often grab bits of coal that spilt out of the coal shoot during the delivery process and sprawl obscene messaging on the sidewalks with it. Well… if “up your nose with a rubber hose” is considered obscene. It was then. This was the late 1970’s and 80’s, btw, not some distant depression era dystopia.

There was a big effort in New York State early in the first Pataki administration to replace this coal powered world with an oil based one. The next step is going to involve replacing the oil burners with gas powered ones. There’s a fractional difference in the amount of CO2 which burning these different fossil fuels puts into the atmosphere, but there’s a difference (which is measured in tonnages) in terms of how much black particulate ash and dust enters the air and then precipitates down onto the ground and into the water. Coal particulates, in particular, are pretty high in antibiotic metals, notably arsenic and lead.

With LNG, you’ve got all the manufactured gas problems, of course. One of the best bits of branding in the corporate and political arena – ever – is usage of the term “natural gas.” The current Presidential administration has recently coined the term “Freedom Gas” for manufactured gas, as a note.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Saying all that, the best near term strategy for not choking to death on our success as a culture seems to be either figuring out how to beat the laws of physics as far as new electrical battery technologies go, or the adoption of LNG fuel cells for powering our various heavy vehicles. I have a friend who’s working on a pilot project at the Port, testing out the deployment of LNG powered semi trucks. Right now, as you’re reading this, there’s hundreds and hundreds of trucks idling at the Port waiting for the cargo cranes to unload one of many cargo ships. The shipping containers will be loaded onto the trucks, at which point they will be on their merry way, but until they’re loaded up, the trucks are sitting there idling – sometimes for 8-12 hours at a pop. This goes on 24/7 and 365 days a year.

LNG is a commonly used fuel source for ferries and other heavy vehicles, – right now- and particularly so in East and South East Asia. For some reason, it’s considered “novel” and dangerous in North America as we consider “gas” in our cars as being safer than “gas.” LNG is still a hydrocarbon based fuel, of course, but compared to burning oil or coal…


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 19, 2019 at 2:30 pm

half forgot

leave a comment »

Is there a “usual” anymore?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator is notoriously a creature of habits. If I find something enjoyable, I’ll repeat the experience over and over until it’s either no longer available or all the joy has been sucked out of it. Rinse, wash, repeat. I’m that way with certain points of views too. It’s an absolute imperative that I grab certain shots when passing the POV by, which is the case with the photo above from the Brooklyn Navy Yard perspective. You never know if “today’s iteration” is the last time you’ll see something, given how fast change occurs these days. To wit, notice how that new construction of yet another glass box residential tower is screwing up the primacy of the Empire State Building?

Additionally, whereas we’ve had wet and rainy years in the past, 2019 seems to be the year that NYC has become the Seattle of the East Coast. I’d prefer London fog to rain, myself, but I like it all atmospheric like.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned yesterday, before conducting a tour and whenever possible, I like to run the route a couple of days in advance and get my thoughts together. Accordingly, having ridden the Astoria line of the NYC Ferry to Wall Street/Pier 11, I transferred onto the Soundview line that goes north along the East River to the Bronx. After hugging the eastern coastline of Manhattan to East 90th street, the ferry heads into the Hells Gate section of the River. That’s the Triborough and Hell Gate Bridge pictured above, with Randalls/Wards Island on the left and the Shore Blvd. side of Astoria Park on the right.

I often wonder why there isn’t a ferry stop on Randalls/Wards. There’s such an abundance of playing fields and parkland there. Perhaps with future expansions of service there will be. Let’s just say that a certain someone is whispering into a few of the right ears about that one, every chance he gets.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Something you might notice, when riding the ferry, are units of the NYPD Harbor Patrol. I’ve ridden the boats with officers onboard, or seemingly at random, an NYPD vessel will shadow the Ferry along its route – as was the case last week. Obviously, this is connected to NYPD’s Homeland Security mission, an appropriately so.

That’s a SAFE “response boat medium” pictured above, which are increasingly long in the tooth vessels that first started populating the fleets of the “services” a little more than a decade ago. Every service has its own flavor of SAFE boat.

On a site maintenance note, I should be rectifying this ad banner insertion bullshit that WordPress has been inflicting on this site shortly.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 18, 2019 at 1:30 pm

varying antiquity

with 2 comments

And so doth Monday once more rise.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Prepping for last Saturday’s NYC Ferry tour found me riding around on a few of their boats last week, which is where I spotted the MV Hunts Point “Sludge Boat” crossing under the Williamsburg Bridge. Originally built as “East River Bridge #3” the bridge opened in 1899, a full ten years before East River Bridge #2 (Manhattan Bridge). It was built to replace the old Grand Street to Grand Street ferry operated by the company which Robert Fulton had founded. The Williamsburg Bridge was considered an eyesore when it opened, and the Municipal Art Society was founded as a response.

The Astoria line of the NYC Ferry, from which these shots were gathered, has recently added a new stop to its service, one which goes into the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Wallabout Creek was the first recorded site of European settlement on the Long Island side of the East River, in these parts. The Lenape word for the Wallabout, I’m told, was “Hemegacknock.” In 1801, shortly after the American Revolution, the newly minted Federal Government desired a ship yard along the East River. At the time, the busiest boat building center on the planet was found on the East side of Manhattan, and real estate prices for a property large enough for what the Feds wanted to occupy forced them to look towards the east. They purchased Wallabout Creek and Bay, and created the Brooklyn Navy Yard there in 1801.

By the American Civil War in the 1860’s, the BNY was employing over 6,000 people at the Wallabout.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

By World War 2, there were 10,000 employees and the Brooklyn Navy Yard hosted five miles of paved roads, 2 steel shipways to launch new vessels, six pontoon and cylindrical floats, and 4 dry docks. That ship you see above is sitting high and dry in one of the dry docks (it’s actually called a graving dock, but there you go).

Between 1937 and 1953, amongst several other large vessels; the BNY launched the Battleships Iowa, North Carolina, and Missouri. They also built the first angled deck aircraft carrier here, which was called the Antietam. After the Federal Government began contracting its ship building and servicing in NY Harbor, the Navy Yard fell on hard times. These days it’s experiencing a bit of a renaissance, and has become a corporate industrial park of sorts. The FDNY and NYC Ferry maintain bases here, and there’s also a movie studio, the country’s largest urban farm, and several warehouse operations working out of the Navy Yard. Additionally, there’s a new museum here called “Bldg 92” which preserves the history of the place, accessible from the Flushing Avenue or landward side.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

burying dust

leave a comment »

Ferry rides never get old, man.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Wednesday last, one spent the late afternoon riding around on a couple of the NYC Ferry system’s routes. My desire was to freshen up my recollections for this Saturday’s tour, which will play out on the Soundview route. To get from “A” to “M,” the Astoria line was accessed at Hallet’s Cove nearby the NYCHA Astoria houses. This particular line’s terminal stop is at the location above, then it stops at the east side of Roosevelt Island beneath the Queensboro Bridge, LIC North nearby Anable Basin, 34th street in the City, a new stop at the Brooklyn Navy Yard has just been added, and then it proceeds to Pier 11/Wall Street in Lower Manhattan. If you time it right, and I did, a free transfer is available to the Soundview line which carries you up to the Bronx.

There’s all sorts of amenity and inducement onboard to encourage the comfort of riders, but for me, the NYC Ferry is a cheap way to offer my camera a weapons platform for remote deployments. Pictured above are the Roosevelt Island Bridge and a section fo the Big Allis power plant in Queens’ Ravenswood section.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The view from the Brooklyn Navy Yard is offered above.

As of right now, it doesn’t look like the sort of boat tours which I’ve normally offered and or participated in during the last ten summers will be possible. The popularity of the NYC Ferry during the summer months has seen the service reserving or leasing every single boat in NY Harbor to buttress their own fleet, and its “taken the air out” of the rental boat market. There’s still plenty of higher end vessels you can hire, but they are either too large and expensively risky – Circleline, for instance – or are floating catering halls which are far too slow and costly. There’s also a few vessels which are just out of my price range, or would necessitate ticket prices that are stratospheric.

It’s funny, actually. What my friends and I have been advocating for over the last decade (and change) has come to pass. New Yorkers are once again embracing their waterways, and using maritime transit to get around. There’s no shortage of “normal people” advocating for waterfront access these days, not just us “harbor rats,” and there’s so many people paddling around in kayaks and canoes that it’s actually become quite crowded in certain parts of the harbor. Imagine that.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Here’s something I’ve learned over the last decade, take it for what it’s worth.

In the world of “tours,” you’ve got a couple of basic delineations; vehicle tours, site tours, walking tours. My pals at Turnstile Tours, who essentially have a franchise at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, offer the very definition of “site tours.” The folks who do the Grand Central Station tours also do “site tours,” or the extremely successful Empire State Building operation. That’s when you’ve got exclusive access to a particular place. Walking tours, which I offer regularly during the summer months, follow a particular route that expresses a certain narrative or story. Vehicle tours take a variety of forms, from the bus operations that feed off the tourist trade in Manhattan to CircleLine or even the sort of boat tours which I usually offer during the summer months that go to some out of the way but interesting place like Port Newark or Newtown Creek.

Then, there’s the “subway tour,” which take advantage of preexisting transit infrastructure to cover a large distance quickly. The NYC Ferry tour I’m conducting tomorrow, links below, will follow the model of a subway tour. If it works out, and so far there’s been quite a lot of interest in this one, I’m planning on doing more of them on the less travelled routes. The Rockaway line, for instance, is far too popular to even consider doing one during the summer months.

There’s just so much to see and talk about on the Soundview and Astoria lines, it boggles the mind.


Upcoming Tours and Events

June 15th – Exploring the East River,

From General Slocum Disaster to Abandoned Islands – with NY Adventure Club.

June 15th is one of those days in NYC history. In 1904, more than a thousand people boarded a boat in lower Manhattan, heading for a church picnic on Long Island — only 321 of them would return. This is the story of the General Slocum disaster, and how New York Harbor, the ferry industry, and a community were forever altered.

Join New York Adventure Club for a two-part aquatic adventure as we explore the General Slocum disaster, and historic sights and stories along the East River, all by NYC Ferry.

Tickets and more details
here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

 


Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 14, 2019 at 1:30 pm

%d bloggers like this: