The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for June 2009

Rosetta Stones

leave a comment »

From Queens Borough, New York City, 1910-1920; the borough of homes and industry, a descriptive and illustrated book setting forth its wonderful growth and development in commerce, industry and homes during the past ten years … a prediction of even greater growth during the next ten years … and a statement of its many advantages, attractions and possibilities as a section wherein to live, to work and to succeed (1920)

Published in 1920, by the New York, L. I. Star Pub. Co.

Found at, download the 33 megabyte pdf scan of the book here


Newtown Creek, which is known as the “busiest waterway of its size in the world,” is a tidal arm of the East River, dividing the Boroughs of Queens and Brooklyn for a distance of four miles. It empties into the East River directly opposite 34th Street, Manhattan. The importance of this stream is strikingly shown by comparing its activities with those of the Mississippi River, which from New Orleans to St. Paul is 1,000 miles in length and flows through the heart of a great industrial section. According to recent figures, 5,500,000 tons of freight are carried annually on the upper and lower reaches of this longest river in the world. While for the three years 1915-16-17, the tonnage on the four miles of Newtown Creek averaged 5,620,000 tons. The value of the tonnage on the Mississippi River is approximately $100,000,000 per annum, while on Newtown Creek, it has averaged more than $200,000,000 per annum for the past ten years. The chief commodities transported on this surprising waterway are copper ore and its products, petroleum, lumber, coal, chemicals and building materials.

In 1917, 517,601 tons of copper ore and copper manufactures were transported on Newtown Creek a tonnage valued at $230,000,000, which is an amount greater than the total value of all the manufactured products of either Kansas City, Minneapolis or San Francisco, and greater than the value of exports from Boston or Philadelphia. Huge oil refineries on both sides of the stream ship annually 250,000,0000 gallons of petroleum. There is still room for growth both in the commerce on the stream and the manufacturing plants which now line its borders. There are large undeveloped tracts in Queens adjoining this stream such as the Degnon Terminal with huge industrial plants that have been erected during the past seven years, and where many more will be erected during the coming ten years. One of the largest undeveloped tracts of land at the head of the stream is the 150 acre tract of the Palmer Waterfront Land and Improvement Company, in the Maspeth section, which is served by rail as well as water, and on which several large manufacturing plants have been located within the past few years. The character of tonnage on this waterway can best be shown by the following table for one recent year,

1917 : Article Estimated Value Net Tons

  1. General Merchandise
    $8,734,301     or     132,602 VNT
  2. Coal and other fuel and cord wood
    $4,337,378     or     1,373,035 VNT
  3. Lumber, railroad ties and piles
    $6,940,388     or     443,027 VNT
  4. Steel and products
    $1,254,557     or     32,369 VNT
  5. Copper ore and products
    $180,275,507     or     413,837 VNT
  6. Petroleum $15,744,584     or     868,464 VNT
  7. Brick, (building and fire) $722,197     or     242,734 VNT
  8. Crushed stone
    $130,041     or     155,309 VNT
  9. Gravel and sand
    $450,198     or     656,908 VNT
  10. Cement, lime, etc
    $1,855,511     or     306,519 VNT
  11. Paving blocks
    $32,275     or     31,164 VNT
  12. Plaster, whiting, sulphur, chalk, etc
    $506,505     or     58,262 VNT
  13. Fertilizer and steam bone
    $632,702     or     88,109 VNT
  14. Ice
    $141,279     or     47,093 VNT
  15. Ashes, cinders and slag
    $85,670     or     100,890 VNT
  16. Molasses
    $528,000     or     48,768 VNT
  17. All other materials
    $490,916     or     155,404 VNT
  18. TOTAL . . . $226,862,015 or
    5,154,500 VNT

The Federal Government is now starting dredging operations which will provide for a channel varying from 250 to 125 feet in width, and 20 to 18 feet in depth, at mean low water, from the East River to the head of navigation in the creek. The mean range of tide is 4^ feet. More than 1,475,000 cubic yards will be dredged from the channel. The appropriation of $510,000 for this work, included in the Rivers and Harbors Bill of 1919, was secured through the joint efforts of the Queensboro Chamber of Commerce and Congressman Charles Pope Caldwell. The tonnage and value for the 10 years 1908 to 1918 inclusive is given in the following table :

Year Tonnage Value

  • 1908- 4,181,528     or     $229,994,000 
  • 1909- 5,113,628     or     $253,003,000 
  • 1910- 3,861,852     or     $139,378,000 
  • 1911- 5,435,016     or     $191,747,000 
  • 1912- 4,921,843     or     $225,416,000 
  • 1913- 5,141,516     or     $226,962,000 
  • 1914- 4,445,556     or     $147,739,000 
  • 1915- 5,756,102     or     $147,086,000 
  • 1916- 5,915,150     or     $201,581,000 
  • 1917- 5,215,820     or     $294,701,000 
  • 1918- 4,369,136     or     $322,960,000 
  • TOTAL . . . .
    ‘ 54,337,197     or     $2,380,567,000 
    5,433,719     or     $238,056,700

Some further idea of the immense commerce of this waterway can be obtained from the figures compiled by the Department of Plant and Structures of New York City, which show that during the year 1918, 59,389 boats passed through the Vernon Avenue Bridge, 56,735 passed through the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge, 27,000 through the Meeker Street Bridge and 5,007 through the Grand Street Bridge. Steamers schooners and unrigged vessels are the principal freight carriers. Their drafts range from 5^ to 20 feet; 2 to 19 feet; 2 to 18 feet respectively. Some steamers of still larger draft lighter in their cargoes.

Among the larger plants on the Queens shore of Newtown Creek are the National Sugar Refining Company, Nichols Copper Company, National Enameling and Stamping Company, General Chemical Company, Standard Oil Refineries. American Agricultural Chemical Company, and the Wrigley Chewing Gum Company.

DUTCH KILLS CREEK During 1914 bulkhead lines were established by the United States Govern- ment for Dutch Kills Creek, a tributary of Newtown Creek, thus putting this stream under the jurisdiction of the War Department. The bulkhead lines as approved on October 29, 1914, give a width varying from 200 feet at its junction with Newtown Creek to 150 feet at the head of the stream, and include a large basin in the Degnon Terminal where car floats can be docked. The widths of the channel to be dredged under the appropriation of $510,000 mentioned previously, range from 160 feet at Newtown Creek to 75 feet at the turning basin. The Long Island Railroad plans to establish at this point a large wholesale public market, estimated to cost nearly $5,000,000.

Among the larger industrial plants in the Degnon Terminal served by this stream are : Loose Wiles Biscuit Company, American Ever Ready Works, White Motor Company, Sawyer Biscuit Company, Defender Manufacturing Company, Pittsburg Plate Glass Company, Marcus Ward, Brett Lithograph Company, Waldes, Inc., Norma Company of America, Manhattan-Rome Company, American Chicle Co. and The Palmolive Co.

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 29, 2009 at 12:40 am

Posted in newtown creek

Long Island City zen

with 5 comments

Know this spot?

View from behind the midtown tunnel by you.

Long Island City -photo by Mitch Waxman 

It’s a backroad, by LIC standards.

It’s 51st Avenue and what would be 21st street, and it smells heavily from the garbage bins of a commercial fish butcher just up the block on the corner of 23rd street. During the festering heat of the late summer in New York, crossing the street- if not avoiding the block all together- is advisable. Across the street are fallow lots of illegally dumped industrial garbage and the Crows picking it over. 

Crows are metal collectors, usually immigrants who have a tradition of “ship-breaking” or “shanty towns” in their country of origin. They see value in what others see as trash.

Metal buyers in Long Island City and especially Greenpoint and East Williamsburg pay, by the pound, for the collected materials. If copper wire is found, the collector is expected to burn off the insulation, despite the toxicity of doing so. Its not the buyers problem, he just wants the commodity. Want to see it in action- hang out on the corner of Greenpoint avenue and Moultrie St. in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. This is recycling. 

Circus Train by you.

Pretty darn close to 51st Avenue and what would be 21st street- It’s the Circus Train!!! -photo by Mitch Waxman 

In 1908, a fire at the nearby Blanchard Building- which housed the works of J.F. Blanchard, makers of fireproof doors and shutters- was started by an inferno at the Pratt & Lambert varnish works next door. The fire soon began to spread and a great crowd watched as groups of firemen tried to battle the out of control blaze. The great fear was that the nearby Columbia Paper Bag company would be set alight, which would provide ample fuel for an inferno that might spread beyond Borden Avenue and to the shores of the Newtown Creek. 

nytimes archive article here:

“LONG ISLAND CITY FIRE A SIGHT FOR THOUSANDS; A Varnish Plant and Door Factory Are Destroyed. MANY TRAINS ARE HELD UP Poor Water Supply Responsible for $300,000 Loss, Says Croker — Fireman Badly Hurt.

There is a Blanchard Building on the site today, and it does seem quite fireproof, although Blanchard is long gone. J.F. Blanchard eventually merged with the John W. Rapp company and became the United States Metal Products Company.

View the  Blanchard Building in a google map, clicking streetview- from the LIE- its the large structure with the two billboards. 

Blanchard manufactured hollow, sheet-metal, fireproof doors. Their Type A and Type B were endorsed by the National Board of Fire Underwriters in Chicago. Installation of thee doors would reduce fire insurance costs by a significant margin. A major influence on the bottom line here in the dense agglutination of industry here on the Newtown Creek.

 from beneath the Queens Midtown Expressway by you.

Down under the Long Island Expressway- DULIE -photo by Mitch Waxman 

51st avenue dead ends at the Long Island Railroad tracks, and what would be 21st street is a pedestrian rail bridge (which Forgotten-Ny once christened “the 21st street Bridge“) that goes over the train tracks and under the Highway, which channels the constant stream of vehicular traffic (some 83,900 cars and trucks a day) flowing east out of the toll plaza at the Midtown Tunnel to the highways threading out through Queens and ultimately to Long Island. 

note- this bridge has a lamppost which was one of the ones tagged with “occult” grafiti, as discussed in an earlier post.

Best one of this batch by you.

LIRR crosses Borden Avenue -photo by Mitch Waxman

Nearby, the 800 pound gorilla crosses Borden Avenue at grade (street level). One of the few places in New York City that the Long Island Rail Road still does so.

These tracks lead between the Hunters Point Avenue station and the Long Island City station, and up until the 1950’s such grade crossings were a constant nuisance and mortal threat to the citizens of Long Island City- here in the Newtown Pentacle.

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 27, 2009 at 1:39 pm

Posted in newtown creek

Working Harbor Committee 6/15/09 tour part 2

with 3 comments

Statue of Liberty by you.

Statue of Liberty at Dusk -Photo by Mitch Waxman

In the first part of this post: The hired Circleline company’s Zephyr Catamaran departed Pier 16 at the South Street Seaport, passed the Brooklyn Piers and moved south in the Buttermilk Channel between Brooklyn & Governors Island, passing Atlantic Basin. We went further south and nosed into Erie Basin, crossed Upper New York Harbor, passing numerous moored barges and tugs to the entrance to the Kill Van Kull, passing tanker terminals, tug yards, and a large ship repair facility with floating drydocks. We proceeded  westerly and passed under the Bayonne Bridge, turning north to enter Newark Bay.

This amazing experience is being offered by the Working Harbor Committee. These esteemed maritime enthusiasts will be hosting 3 more of these narrated excursions over the course of this summer of 2009. (some of the copy above paraphrased from the Working Harbor Committee website)

Bayonne Bridge by you.

Bayonne Bridge, New Jersey side -Photo by Mitch Waxman

Newark Bay is a tidal back bay formed by the confluence of the Passaic and Hackensack rivers, and part of New York Harbor. Its waters are a poisonous stew of arsenic, cadmium, mercury, copper, PCB’s, PAH’s, Pesticides, VOC’s, and Dioxin. Fishing is limited by law and common sense, and the harvesting or consumption of Crab or Lobster from these waters is prohibited by State and Federal authorities. 

In 1958, a spectacular train crash happened at Newark Bay- when a passenger railroad ran a “stop” signal causing a derailment. The derailed train SLID OFF of the since demolished Newark Bay Lift Bridge and into the water. The first two cars of the train sunk immediately, killing 43. The third car hung over the edge before it too fell into the bay. 

Gantry Dock by you.

Port Newark-Elizabeth Marine Terminal -Photo by Mitch Waxman

Natural wetlands until as late as the 20th century, the City of Newark began to dredge the shipping channel in 1914 that would eventually be widened and deepened into the modern Port of Newark. 15th busiest cargo port on Earth, and largest on the eastern seaboard of the United States- the combined “Port Newark” and “Elizabeth Marine Terminal” operation is controlled by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey

Dock by you.

Ships loading at Port Newark-Elizabeth Marine Terminal -Photo by Mitch Waxman

A container port, the cyclopean scale of the machinery found in this place was both notable and mind boggling. How the arts of man have progressed. This particular container ship is the Ever Reward, run by a global outfit based out of Taiwan called Evergreen Marine Corp. Evergreen got into some trouble, back in 2005, and got hit with $25 million in fines.

from the United States Department of Justice:

“Charges include making false statements, obstruction of Coast Guard inspections, failing to maintain an accurate Oil Record Book, and one negligent violation of the Clean Water Act relating to the discharge in the Columbia River.  Following the guilty pleas, U.S. District Judge Terry J. Hatter, Jr. ordered the company to pay $25 million to be divided equally among the five judicial districts involved”

The Ever Reward seems to have had a troubled life, as just two years earlier- in 2003, the International Longshoreman’s Association shut down all Evergreen operations here at the Maher Terminal in the Port Newark-Elizabeth Marine Terminal. The strike also spread to other ports.

The Ever Reward is an astounding 294,13 meters long, which can move at 23.5 knots (that’s around 28 miles an hour) when fully loaded- was built in 1994 at Mitsubishi Kobe, in Japan- and is owned by Greencompass Marine S.A. (Evergreen), Panama, and is a Panamanian flagged ship.

Dock by you.

Ship loading, Port Newark-Elizabeth Marine Terminal -Photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the CSCL Jakarta, a relatively small and slow cargo ship built in 2001 at Stocznia Gdynia, Poland– in the Pomeranian Voivodeship. Notice the smaller scale of the Container Cranes on this side of the dock. It’s operated by China Shipping Container Lines Co.,Ltd, a company founded in 1997 in Shanghai, in the People’s Republic of China. Jakarta is one of the 152 vessels maintained as part of their active fleet.

Loading Cargo by you.

Cranes at work, Port Newark-Elizabeth Marine Terminal -Photo by Mitch Waxman

As we continued along, the sense shattering size of the place struck again and again. The cargo containers- familiar gypsy’s that wander through city street and country lane- being stacked like so many children’s blocks by a gulliverian mantis.

The world’s largest manufacturer of these WHEELED and DRIVEABLE machines, which may move about on the pier to the obtain the most advantageous spots for loading and unloading, is in China. It is the Shanghai Zhenhua Port Machinery Company which is a subsidiary of the China Communications Construction Company,which is the largest government owned corporation in the People’s Republic of China.

note, editorializing…

The P.R.C. is the world’s worst and most repressive government and there’s absolutely nothing that anyone who doesn’t live there can do about it. But…

(I’m warning you, there is brutal disturbing stuff you will see if you click the next 3 links, but this is who we are doing business with) 

go to google images and type in “chinese executions

-estimates (according to Amnesty International) are that 7,500 people a year go out this way.

That’s all I have to say, except that to me- those pics look a lot like this. Peace at any price, indeed. 

Cargo Sunset by you.

Cargo ship Sunset, Port Newark-Elizabeth Marine Terminal -Photo by Mitch Waxman

Capacity of Container Ships is measured in TEU, or  twenty-foot equivalent unit. The largest containers can weigh as much as 67,200 pounds- which is apparently reckoned as 2.65 TEU. An intermodal (rail/truck/ship) steel box that conforms to size and weight restraints, the shipping container is a byproduct of the Korean War (in which the People’s Republic of China participated). The United States Army developed a shipping system called CONEX to speed the delivery of supplies to the incalculably distant Port of Pusan.

Dock corner by you.

Maher terminal dock, Port Newark-Elizabeth Marine Terminal – Van -Photo by Mitch Waxman

The motto on this van says: Safety is a standard… not an option.  There were lots of guys buzzing around in these seemingly tiny trucks. Again, the incredible breath taking scale of the place emerges. How many millions of hours of labor are represented in these photos?

Dock by you.

Port Newark-Elizabeth Marine Terminal Straddle Carrier -Photo by Mitch Waxman

The large container cranes, whose self actuating wheels can be seen in the shot below, are skyscraper sized machines. The “smaller” orange machine is a straddle carrier. This particular model seems to be the Kalmar ESC 350 front cabin twinlift, which would give it a lift capacity of 2.65 TEU. Capable of stacking shipping containers up to 4 units high, they can move up to 30 kph (which is just under 19 mph) while loaded with a full shipping container.

Loading Dock by you.

Port Newark-Elizabeth Marine Terminal Straddle Carrier -Photo by Mitch Waxman

Gantry cranes by you.

Container Cranes, Port Newark-Elizabeth Marine Terminal -Photo by Mitch Waxman

The equinox not withstanding, it was getting late, and the Zephyr had to return to its berth at South Street Seaport. We bid our hosts adieu, and wished them all the luck that their titanic endeavors will undoubtedly bring. This enormous facility, of which we visited the tiniest fraction, is less than 20 miles from Times Square.

Tug by you.

The tug Margaret Moran -Photo by Mitch Waxman

As the Zephyr moved back toward the Kill Van Kull, the frenetic movements of channel traffic continues. Seemingly having someplace to get to quickly, the Margaret Moran came zipping past. Operated by Moran Towing Corp., the Margaret Moran is a 149 ton, 3,300 horsepower twin screw tugboat built in 1979 at the McDermott Shipyard in Amelia, LA. It participated in the evacuation of the World Trade Center site.  Here’s a neat shot of the MM assisting the Queen Mary 2 into port.

Bayonne Bridge by you.

Bayonne Bridge, Staten Island side -Photo by Mitch Waxman

I didn’t make a big deal of the Bayonne Bridge on the way into Newark Bay because the sun wasn’t with me from that angle. The fourth largest steel arch bridge on Earth with a height of 150 feet over the water, it connects Bayonne, New Jersey’s Chemical Coastline with Staten Island. It’s primary mission is to allow vehicular traffic access to Manhattan via the Holland Tunnel.

Bayonne Bridge by you.

Bayonne Bridge -Photo by Mitch Waxman

The Bayonne Bridge was designed by a man who helped design the Hell Gate rail bridge on the East river- and was principal designer for the Verrazano bridge over the Narrows, The George Washingston Bridge over the Hudson River, the Bronx Whitestone Bridge over the East River, the Throgs Neck Bridge over the East River. He was brought in to simplify the design of mighty Triborough– which is actually a bridge and highway complex spanning multiple waterways and islands. A swede, Othmar Amman worked for Gustavus Lindenthal (designer of the the Queensboro and Hell Gate Bridges), and took over as head bridge engineer at the New York Port Authority in 1925. He also directed the planning and construction of the the Lincoln Tunnel.

He was Robert Moses’s “guy”.

Tug and barge by you.

Kill Van Kull traffic jam -Photo by Mitch Waxman

Lucky for us, a traffic jam was forming up behind a couple of large ships- which by necessity had to move extra slow in the narrow channel. This was lucky, because the Zephyr was running late, and the failing light coupled with a swiftly moving catamaran would soon render photography a futile pursuit. Slowing down to a crawl as we commuted from New Jersey to Manhattan felt oddly familiar, but it allowed for longer exposures. Directly in front of us was the Tug Joan Turecamo. A 192 ton barge mover born in 1981, it was built at the Matton Shipyards here in New York State.

Petrol Farm by you.

Chemical Coast -Photo by Mitch Waxman

You had to know there was no way that Standard Oil would’nt involved.

The Chemical Coast is a section of New Jersey that faces Staten Island that contains an unusual concentration of petrochemical refineries and storage plants, amongst other heavy industries.Railroad workers gave the name to the place as early as 1926, by which time Standard Oil had already burrowed its way into the mud. John D. Rockefeller  bought a large patch of land here, on which he built the Bayway Refinery in 1907. The Standard subsidiary in this part of New Jersey is the company that would one day be Exxon.

Tugboat by you.

The Tug Buchanan 1 -Photo by Mitch Waxman

As we were exiting the Arthur Kill, the tug Buchanan 1  came shooting past. Just like me, it was built in 1967 and weighs 191 tons. Home sweet hell looms on the horizon, its spires scraping sky.

Tugs at dock by you.

Chemical Coast Moran Tugs, Kill Van Kull -Photo by Mitch Waxman

From left- the tug Linda Moran (a brand spanking new, 2008 vintage, 5,100 horsepower articulated Tug built by Washburn & Doughty in Maine), the barge Houston (a 118,000 barrel articulated fuel barge), and the tug Kimberly Turecamo ( a 3,000 horsepower tug which was involved in the accidental grounding of the Container Ship New Delhi Express in the Kill Van Kull back in 2005).

Liberty by you.

Statue of Liberty sunset-Photo by Mitch Waxman

Battery by you.

Lower Manhattan at Dusk from East River -Photo by Mitch Waxman

The Zephyr showed its speed and power after we cleared the Kill Van Kull, and the Captain gunned it back to Manhattan. He offered us ample time at Liberty Island, but the one rule in a busy harbor is sticking to your schedule. Very nice experience over all, and there was a free drink!

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 26, 2009 at 2:43 pm

Posted in newtown creek

Working Harbor Committee 6/15/09 tour part 1

with 4 comments

Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges by you.

Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges from South Street Seaport -Photo by Mitch Waxman

After a driving rainstorm that blackened the skies over Manhattan, the very end of which I experienced while standing on Pier 16 while waiting for the hired Circleline company’s Zephyr Catamaran to return from the first of its two tours of New York Harbor being offered by the Working Harbor Committee. These esteemed maritime enthusiasts will be offering 3 more of these narrated excursions over the course of this summer of 2009. If its convenient, you too- dear reader- should consider booking passage for an interesting and revealing summer evening cruise. 

Brooklyn by you.

Brooklyn Promenade from South Street Seaport -Photo by Mitch Waxman

The story of the destruction of New York City’s maritime neighborhoods by Robert Moses and the BQE doesn’t end when he cut Astoria in twain or screwed the Bronx up forever with the Cross Bronx Expressway.

His attempt to cleave Brooklyn Heights in half was averted by the massive wealth and political clout of the community who didn’t want to see their neighborhood turned into Long Island City. Instead, the BQE runs along the coast as a double decker highway with a cement cover on it that Moses called “the promenade“. Nobody screwed with Bob Moses, except for the governor who wrested control over federal transportation and public housing money away from him by creating the MTA, which absorbed control over Moses’s powerbase- the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority in 1968.

Governor Nelson Rockefeller was the man who cut the godlike Moses down to size, having seen how the “man who built New York” operated when they worked together on building the United Nations complex.

Red Hook Gantry Cranes by you.

Red Hook Container Cranes -Photo by Mitch Waxman


As I’ve mentioned in the past, I’m a huge nerd. Comic books, Star Trek, and Lovecraft. Lots of H.P. Lovecraft. This next series of photos is from Red Hook- as in “the Horror at Red Hook“. I’m going to try and control myself but… but… MORE PEOPLE ENTER RED HOOK THAN LEAVE IT BY THE LANDWARD SIDE!!! Whew. Got that out of my system. Back to the facts.

If you click the above image, and go to its page at flickr, and then hit all sizes for the zoom-in higher resolution shots- you’ll notice these things are on wheels. They move around, and are the bridge for railroad car sized containers between land to sea transport. These are container cranes- and small ones at that- at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal. Wait till you see the ones at the other end of the trip.

from wikipedia:

a small map of Atlantic Basin in 1849 (actual size below- sorry)

Red Hook Piers by you.

Red Hook Shoreline -Photo by Mitch Waxman

Good to see that Red Hook’s waterfront is just as available to its residents as the Queens and Brooklyn waterfront is back in the Pentacle. Fenced off, privately owned, used as vehicle parking and storage. 

Red Hook by you.

Red Hook approaching Erie Basin -Photo by Mitch Waxman

This was some kind of victorian warehouse, and unless I’m mistaken, this is the Beard St. Pier. Its waterfront had no fence, and it was collapsing. 

Red Hook Piers by you.

Entering Erie Basin by (possibly?) Beard St. Pier -Photo by Mitch Waxman

Said collapsing waterfront- I’ve looked around online and have found pictures of this pier existing in this condition all the way back to the early 90’s. This was facing toward shore, over my shoulder were docks…

Red Hook Piers Tug by you.

Erie Basin Tug -Photo by Mitch Waxman

This is the Tug Zachery Reinauer docked in Erie Basin. It was built in 1971 at the Matton Shipyard, and cruises at an average of 9.4 knots. It weighs 271 tons. 

Red Hook Piers by you.

Manhattan Skyline from Red Hook -Photo by Mitch Waxman

This area was either the location of, or very close to, the site of the Todd Shipyards. The 12th ward is another of New York’s oldest neighborhoods- first settled by the Dutch in 1636- They called it Roode Hoek. In the 1980’s, Life magazine once named Red Hook the “crack capital of the United States”. It’s where Al Capone and Crazy Joe Gallo are from.

Red Hook Piers by you.

Erie Basin -Photo by Mitch Waxman

Red Hook was an early home to the Rapelje (Rapelye) clan- a dutch family who got into New York real estate early in the game. 

from click here for the full post

“Joris Jansen Rapalje was one of the first white settlers on the Long Island. The Rapaljes gave birth to and baptized eleven children—the first child, Sarah, was the first European female born in what would become New York, though whether she was born in Brooklyn or upstate New York is in dispute. It is believed that the Rapaljes have over a million descendants.”

image from

“Erie Basin Terminal
At the foot of Columbia Street, Red Hook, Brooklyn, NY. Governor’s Island and lower Manhattan Island in the background. Circa early 1950s? Before States Marine Lines bought Isthmian.”


Ship by you.

Tug and barge in New York Harbor -Photo by Mitch Waxman

The Tug Austin Reinauer pushes a fuel barge through New York harbor. Built in 1978 as the Morania #20- sold in 1988 as the Mobil-5- then again in 1993 as the Tamarac- as the Morania-1 in 1995- and finally as the Austin Reinauer in 1997. It cruises at an average of 10.2 knots. The barge is the RTC 100, which is a 100,000 barrel capacity fuel barge. I have to post the source for this info- check this out.


Exxon is Esso. Mobil is Esso. Esso is S… and… O. S&O and all its other brand names are ultimately Standard Oil

Kill Van Kull long shot by you.

Looking east into New York harbor from  the Kill Van Kull -Photo by Mitch Waxman

All I could think of as we passed through the Kill Van Kull, was that the Newtown Creek must have looked something like this in its day. And that “they” are doing it all over again, this time in Jersey. It was a Monday night, after 7pm, and the industrial complexes on Jersey side were still humming. The Staten Island side of the waterway, however, looked small harbor town sleepy.

Staten Island waterfront by you.

Staten Island Waterfront, Kill Van Kull -Photo by Mitch Waxman

Here’s an excellent history of the Staten Island waterfront story from Staten Island’s esoteric past is well outside of my knowledge.

Also- My 2 cents say that once again, New York built a wall between its citizenry and their waterfronts.

Tug at work by you.

Tug nudging ship into place at dock in the Kill Van Kull -Photo by Mitch Waxman

The tug Ellen McAllister was originally built for the U.S. Navy, as the Piqua, at the Marinette Marine Shipyards in Wisconsin in July of 1967. The Piqua’s anchorage for many years was at Holy Loch, Scotland. It spent most of its naval career providing tug services for the 1st naval district and the Atlantic Fleet. It was sold under its current name in 2001 to McAllister Towing

Harbor by you.

Tug at dock, Kill Van Kull  -Photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m sort of leaning toward this being the tug Durham- but can’t find much about a ship of that name- or a clear photo to match it with.

Tug and barge by you.

the Tug K-Sea Falcon -Photo by Mitch Waxman

A New York Harbor barge mover, the 3,200 BHP Falcon has a raised second pilothouse to see over its charges. It’s a youngster– built in 1990 at the Tampa Ship yards in Florida. The gigantic ship in the background is an ocean going transport ship that carries automobiles.

Dry Docks by you.

Floating Dry Docks, Staten Island  -Photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s a tugboat in that floating drydock. It’s the K-Sea Coral Sea- a 3,280 horsepower, 193 gross ton tug that, along with a long career all along the atlantic seaboard, participated in the evacuation of the World Trade Center site on September 11, 2001. It was built in 1973 as “the Venturer” at the Houma Louisiana Main Iron Works yards. This floating drydock is most likely the Cadell Dry Dock and Repair Co.

from wikipedia:

A floating drydock is a type of pontoon for dry docking ships, possessing floodable buoyancy chambers and a “U” shaped cross-section. The walls are used to give the drydock stability when the floor is below the water level. When valves are opened the chambers are filled with water, the dry dock floats lower in the water, allowing a ship to be moved into position inside. When the water is pumped out of the chambers, the drydock rises and the deck is cleared of water, allowing work to proceed on the ship’s hull.

Arthur Kill Horizon by you.

Newark bay skyline, from Kill Van Kull -Photo by Mitch Waxman

Finally, at the western side of the Kill Van Kull, we near the Bayonne Bridge and see the Newark Bay skyline in the west with the setting sun behind it. Luckily, the date chosen for this excursion was perilously close to the summer equinox (Beltane), and despite the late hour- the burning sun still stared down upon New Jersey- and the culmination of the journey- Newark Bay and Port Elizabeth.

Bayonne Bridge by you.

Down under the Bayonne Bridge- aka DUBBO -Photo by Mitch Waxman

But that’s on the other side of the Bayonne Bridge… and another post

as always, if something you read here is contradicted by something you know, contact me. Additions and corrections are always welcomed.

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 25, 2009 at 12:42 am

Adventures upon the East River 3

with 4 comments

The last bit of the Queensboro Bridge Centennial Celebration was a narrated river cruise that circled from the 23rd street docks in Manhattan up the East River, past Roosevelt Island, under the bridge, and then turning at Hells Gate and returning to 23rd street.

Here’s what I saw:

Chrysler Building from East River by you.

Chrysler Building Manhattan Skyline, from the East River -Photo By Mitch Waxman

It was one of the few sunny days in June 2009, the 6th, that the Marco Polo Boat tour left for its short journey up the river. The narrators onboard the trip were Bernard Ente, and Dave Frieder. We slid up the west channel at first for the initial part of the trip and were greeted by panoramic views of iconic New York architecture like the 77 story Chrysler Building. The second tallest (surviving) building in NYC- construction began in september of 1928 at the behest of the Chrysler automobile company, and it was designed by William Van Alen.

United Nations from East River by you.

United Nations Building, from the East River -Photo By Mitch Waxman

Oh… LeCorbusier and Niemeyer- this is one you got right- other than the leaky roofs and windows. I am not a fan of Le Corbusier, let me just say.

His idiotic notion of stacking communities into vertical spires surrounded by parkland (modern Long Island City’s Queens West near Gantry Park comes to mind) is the greatest formula for the destruction of civic awareness and “neighborhood” since… ever. The urbanist theory that the monolithic public housing projects manifested by the 20th century’s obsession with Urban Renewal would somehow benefit the urban poor comes from LeCorbusier. The rich live in their own version of this concept- the condo building.

LeCorbusier is responsible- ideologically and in some case literally- for the ring of poverty surrounding Paris, the council housing of London, the housing complexes of Chicago, and of course- New York’s rather disastrous experience with “the projects”. He was the Ayn Rand of architecture.

here’s what he wanted to do in Paris, from wikipedia:

Theoretical urban schemes continued to occupy Le Corbusier. He exhibited his Plan Voisin, sponsored by another famous automobile manufacturer, in 1925. In it, he proposed to bulldoze most of central Paris, north of the Seine, and replace it with his sixty-story cruciform towers from the Contemporary City, placed in an orthogonal street grid and park-like green space. His scheme was met with only criticism and scorn from French politicians and industrialists, although they were favourable to the ideas of Taylorism and Fordism underlying Le Corbusier designs. Nonetheless, it did provoke discussion concerning how to deal with the cramped, dirty conditions that enveloped much of the city.

here’s what his politics were, also from wikipedia:

Le Corbusier moved increasingly to the far right of French politics in the 1930s. He associated with Georges Valois and Hubert Lagardelle and briefly edited the syndicalist journal Prélude. In 1934, he lectured on architecture in Rome by invitation of Benito Mussolini. He sought out a position in urban planning in the Vichy regime and received an appointment on a committee studying urbanism. He drew up plans for the redesign of Algiers in which he criticised the perceived differences in living standards between Europeans and Africans in the city, describing a situation in which “the ‘civilised’ live like rats in holes” yet “the ‘barbarians’ live in solitude, in well-being.”[10] These and plans for the redesign of other cities were ultimately ignored. After this defeat, Le Corbusier largely eschewed politics.

Until he designed the United Nations Secretariat, a 39 story building and complex located in Turtle bay, Manhattan. This part of Manhattan is not part of the sovereign territory of the United States, incidentally, its legally international territory and not subject to the laws of New York City or the USA unless the U.N. says so. Here’s the proviso:

United Nations, Pub. L. No. 80-357, 61 Stat. 756 (1947): “Except as otherwise provided in this agreement or in the General Convention, the federal, state and local courts of the United States shall have jurisdiction over acts done and transactions taking place in the headquarters district as provided in applicable federal, state and local laws.”

Interesting note:

The land that the complex sits was purchased from William Zeckendorf (a mid 20th century real estate baron) in a deal brokered by the Chase Manhattan Bank. Chase, of course, was the instrument of future New York Governor and United States Vice President Nelson Rockefeller. Grandson of John D. Rockefeller, and inheritor (with his brothers) of the Standard Oil fortune. The Rockefellers had already offered some of their own land- the house that Standard Oil built- and Rockefeller family castle,in Westchester, for use as the potential seat of a world government- but it was “too far away” for the diplomats. So, he had his father- John D. Rockefeller Jr. buy Turtle Bay and donate the land to the city for the UN.

The area called Turtle Bay was where the Draft Riots of 1863 started, and it was a neighborhood of tenements, butchers, slaughterhouses, and dangerous organized crime controlled docks which handled the traffic coming to and from Long Island City via rail and barge. The United Nations building was completed in 1950.

1950 is also when the decline of the economic infrastructure of North Brooklyn and Western Queens, especially the area around the Newtown Creek in Queens and Red Hook in Brooklyn, began in earnest. Connected? Maybe.

U Thant or Belmont Island by you.

U Thant (or Belmont Island) with Commorrant Nursery. LIC in background, from the East River -Photo By Mitch Waxman

This was cool.

In the 1890’s, the redoubtable William Steinway was attempting to establish trolley service to Manhattan via an East River tunnel. A granite outcrop near Turtle Bay, the Man’O’War, was built up with landfill from a shaft tunneled from the subaqueous worksite below. The result was Belmont Island – the 100×200 foot patch of rock right in front of the modern UN building. In 1977, Sri Chinmoy renamed the island after the then Secretary-General of the United Nations- U Thant. Hence- U Thant island. The weird curvy structure, in addition to being a bird sanctuary, is a “Oneness” arch. The Steinway Tunnel is currently owned by the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) and carries the 7 train into Manhattan from Queens.

And the MTA was established in 1965 by Governor Nelson Rockefeller. Here’s the system.

Queensboro by you.

Queensboro bridge, as it enters Manhattan, from the East River -Photo By Mitch Waxman

I always have to ask. That apartment that’s on eye level with the subway track, and the one 2 flights up that’s level with the roadways… who lives there? Is it ever dark, or quiet?

Queensboro by you.

Queensboro bridge, Roosevelt Island tower, from the East River -Photo By Mitch Waxman

Queensboro used to have an enormous vehicular elevator building which carried cargo down to the “hospitals” here on Roosevelt (welfare) Island

Roosevelt Island Bridge with Queensboro by you.

Queensboro bridge and Roosevelt Island Bridge, from the East River -Photo By Mitch Waxman

A concurrence of arches greeted us after the turn, the boat is now traveling in the East Channel of the river.

Roosevelt Island Bridge with Big Allis by you.

Roosevelt Island Bridge and the Big Allis Power Plant, Ravenswood shoreline, from the East River -Photo By Mitch Waxman

The only way, by land, to get to Roosevelt Island is this 1955 vintage lift bridge. It lifts to 100 feet off the river, severely limiting the size of ships which can cross from Long Island Sound and New York Harbor and creating a traffic bottleneck on the west channel. Big Allis, or Ravenswood 3, looms over the crossing.

Big Allis from the River by you.

Big Allis Power Plant, Ravenswood shoreline, from the East River -Photo By Mitch Waxman

I did a post on Big Allis a little while back, but I’ve never quite seen it from the river. These are fuel barges, apparently, in the process of delivering the fuel that will generate 16% of New York City’s electricity each and every day.

Queensboro by you.

Queensboro bridge, Ravenswood tower shoreline, from the East River -Photo By Mitch Waxman

Deplorable. Look at this riverfront, locked away from the public by Citibank and Consoldiated Edison and the City of New York. Used as a dump and vehicle storage area by the City, ConEd has a high security set of picnic tables set up here, and Citibank is allowing the landmarked Terracotta House to crumble. Queensbridge park ends on the left side of this image and its “boardwalk” is a half submerged, fenced off mastaba of cement collapsing into the East River. Shame.

That’s the swank new Ravel Hotel, on the right, which is where I got to watch the fireworks from.

Queensboro by you.

Queensboro bridge, Ravenswood tower shoreline, from the East River -Photo By Mitch Waxman

For the rest of the Queensboro Bridge event stuff, click here

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 23, 2009 at 3:05 pm

Posted in East River

%d bloggers like this: