The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for July 1st, 2009

Dutch Kills, or let the Photos do the Walking

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Anything you may experience, in situ, by following these walking directions is at your OWN RISK, and is offered by the Newtown Pentacle for documentary and entertainment purposes only. Remember- the rule we follow at the Newtown Pentacle is to NEVER trespass. Like Vampires, Newtownicans should wait to be invited into a house before they can do their work. To wit.

Feel like taking  a walk? I’ll show you something cool… Bring your camera- and ID

from Cement Factory by you.

Truck at 47th avenue and 28th street, Long Island City -photo by Mitch Waxman

from wikipedia

Dutch Kills is a sub-division of the larger neighborhood of Long Island City in the New York City borough of Queens. It was a hamlet, named for its navigable tributary of Newtown Creek, that occupied what today is centrally Queensboro Plaza. Dutch Kills was an important road hub during the American Revolutionary War, and the site of a British Army garrison from 1776 to 1783. The area supported farms during the 19th Century, and finally consolidated in 1870 with the villages of Astoria, Ravenswood, Hunters Point, Middletown, Sunnyside and Bowery Bay to form Long Island City.

Dutch Kills is one of the extant branches of the Newtown Creek, and located not too far from the Degnon Terminal complex (part of the Sunnyside Yards).

Get to 47th avenue and 28th street, early morning or late afternoon are probably best because of the whole sunlight east west thing. Weekends are good because there is a lot less going on in the industrial zones of the Newtown Pentacle.

Assuming you’re coming from the north (skillman or thomson avenues)- You’ll find a series of construction sites behind and to the left of you, and a cement factory (New York Concrete Supply)in front of you. Cross the street and make a left.  Look west, and you’ll be reassured by seeing Manhattan.

I’m going to say this over and over- but be REALLY MINDFUL OF TRUCKS, and… be a smart new yorker- if you’re snapping pics and a guy who looks just like a mobster walks in front of you in Long Island City- He doesn’t just look like a mobster- HE IS A MOBSTER. Don’t be a schmuck.

View Dutch Kills in a google map

Concrete Trucks at the Creek by you.

Concrete Trucks on 47th avenue, Long Island City -photo by Mitch Waxman

Walk to 29th street, which is a very dangerous place for pedestrians. BE CAREFUL. There is no sidewalk, and it is a shortcut to Thomson Avenue and Queens Blvd for traffic coming off the LIE. To your right is Dutch Kills, at its terminus. By the way, the concrete guys REALLY don’t like having their pictures taken.

Yellow Trucks by you.

Concrete Trucks on 29th street, Long Island City -photo by Mitch Waxman

Make the right at the corner of 29th street. DO NOT CLIMB DOWN ON TO THE RUSTY BARGE, you will get hurt and fall into the water with an open wound. When you smell the water, you’ll understand my warnings. 29th street is VERY dangerous. Lots of great Creek kind of shots, but mind yourself, there’s better stuff ahead with safe vantage points.

09_QNS_LIC__NewtnCrk_0524_000105 by sweetpea_212.

Dutch Kills from 29th street -photo by sweetpea212– a member of our Newtown Pentacle Flickr group

All along the Newtown Creek, there are abandoned barges and other vessels. This particular one has been sitting here for at least 3 years. Resist the urge, urban explorers, its not worth it. Also, note the storm sewer in the center of the above shot.

Hunters Point Steel by you.

Structure I am desirous of having a chance to get inside legally, with my camera -photo by Mitch Waxman

At the other end of 29th street- Welcome to an insanely dangerous parking and loading dock for the crumbling Hunterspoint Steel building.

Big old factory on Hunters Point Avenue, has severed rail tracks and abandoned waterfront loading docks. Has a “for sale” sign on it. Perfect lair for supervillian, close to highway and trains.


track map as of 1966 for the area- legend is

7 Staley Elevator 8 Conran Supply 9 Best Wholesale 9a Masbrook Wholesale 9b Saxon Paper 10 Principe Danna 11 Sunshine Biscuit (Garage) 12 Sunshine Biscuit (Factory) 13 Bell River Corp. 14 American Chicle Corp. 15 Equitable Paper Corp. 16 Wheeling Corrugated 17 Gimbel Bros. 18 R.H. Macy 19 Simons 20 Concrete Steel 21 Phillip A. Hunt 21a Saxon Paper 22 Standard Wine & Liquor 23 Harrison Building 24 J.H. Rhodes 25 Hunters Point Steel 26 Standard Folding Box Company 27 United Parcel 28 Star Liquor 29 Viking Criterion Paper

CAREFULLY cross Hunter’s Point Avenue and make a right. Proceed to the Hunters Point Avenue Bridge.

Dutch Kills dirty water 1 by you.

Water the color of Tea, from Hunters Point Avenue Bridge -photo by Mitch Waxman

Hunters Point Avenue Bridge. Stop and look around. Take pictures- this is a great vantage point. This is the place you are also most likely to exchange friendly greetings with law enforcement or private security. Be nice, smile- you’re not doing anything wrong- and you even remembered to carry ID.

newtwn_HDR_IMG_8419_21.jpg by you.

Water the color of antifreeze, from Hunters Point Avenue Bridge -photo by Mitch Waxman

Most of the cops who’ve pulled over and asked me what I’m up to are just doing their job. So are we, lords and ladies of Newtown.

The Police respond to fear and anger in ways injurious to your freedom. You be nice, and so will they. Its really not an adversarial encounter unless you make it so. If they’re jerks, insist on a supervisor or superior officer’s involvement (which may mean a trip to the station house- adventure!). Young cops are zealous and eager to enforce, older cops don’t want their retirement to get jammed up with a civil rights case. An older cop will also realize that you’re “harmless” faster than a young one.

Here’s a great description of your rights as a photographer. Besides, the commish has already pronounced NYPD’s stand on photography.

Dutch Kills Dirty Birds by you.

Dirty Birds, from Hunters Point Avenue Bridge -photo by Mitch Waxman

The Hunters Point Avenue Bridge over Dutch Kills is a Bascule bridge.

from the DOT website:

Easily the most popular type of movable bridge in existence today, bascule bridges are designed to pivot on a fixed axis. Usually this type of bridge consists of movable ‘leaves’ fixed to each end of the channel. The leaves are precisely counterbalanced by weights of sufficient size that relatively little motor power is required for their operation – usually just enough to overcome inertia, frictional resistance, wind and snow loads.

Bascule bridges are simple and speedy to operate, and because of the relatively small amount of electricity needed for movement, cost efficient.

The Hunters Point Avenue Bridge offers spectacular views north and south. That’s the concrete factory from the first photos in the distance.

Dutch Kills Surreal beauty by you.

from Hunters Point Avenue Bridge looking north -photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a surreal beauty to this tributary of the Newtown Creek, an isolated loneliness. It’s a dead place, the corpse of a mighty age of enterprise.

The Surreal Beauty of the Creek by you.

from Hunters Point Avenue Bridge, looking north -photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking north, the LIE bridges the Dutch Kills. 

Yes, these trees and plants are hideously overgrown and show all the signs of having been fed from some morbid nutrition. There is a tenebrous darkness that radiates about them… I know. The fact though, is that if you give nature just a little time, even here in the home of the darkest industrial mills… It’s kind of a nice idea- isn’t it- rebirth.

from Queens Borough, New York City, 1910-1920

During 1914 bulkhead lines were established by the United States Government 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.

Newtown Creek Pan 3 by you.

from Hunters Point Avenue Bridge, looking southeast -photo by Mitch Waxman

Continue down Hunters Point Avenue and make a left at 27th street. (as of 6/27/2009- intersection at Borden still closed due to bridge reconstruction).

A fantastic series of abandoned industrial buildings are on the left. Photograph quickly, Newtownicans, these are being torn to shreds by those dastardly developers right now.

Creek Car by you.

Creek Car, from 27th street -photo by Mitch Waxman

My favorite spot on these 3,000 feet in Queens is (was) undoubtedly the corner of Borden Avenue and 27th street. On your right is an abandoned strip club called Infinity, in front of you is the Borden Avenue Bridge, to your left and below is the Dutch Kills, above you is the LIE.

Newtown Creek in Winter 02 by you.

Water the color of ice -photo by Mitch Waxman

The west bank of Dutch Kills was always an easy shot for me in the mornings and early afternoon. Unfortunately, the construction of the coffer dam for the bridge reconstruction has removed many of the charismatic and idiosyncratic features I’m so drawn to. What foul battrachian horrors might lurk in the slime down there, and who can guess what it is that the construction might have stirred up?

Borden Avenue Bridge 2 by you.

Same vantage as above, in a different season -photo by Mitch Waxman

Ghosts are found here. Phantoms of the clear eyed mariners who inhabited this world, drifting by in wooden ships. Protruding from cement and clinging mud alike are the skeletal remains of rail lines which led from factory floor to dock, defining both building and waterway. Every fallow and abandoned spot finds nature battling to rescue her ruined child from the degradations heaped upon it.

Borden Avenue Bridge 1 by you.

And they built a giant steel highway 106 feet over it.-photo by Mitch Waxman

The pacific quality of the water in these photos, with their mirror like reflectivity, actually betrays a numbing truth. The stillness of the water in this crumbling canal allows it to steadily accrete a sedimentary ichor of pollutants which cake the shorelines, and its percentage of dissolved oxygen is so low that these opaque and stench producing depths can be described as stagnant and injurious to life.

Denied the curative effects of erosion, as provided by strong tide and swift current, the concentration of pollutants here seems worse than anywhere else on the Newtown Creek waterway- except for the lamentable Maspeth Creek. Floating poop is the least of it, there’s lead and arsenic and dioxin in that mud. Who can guess it is that might be breeding down there? What foul congress of poisons awaits the future? 

from an army corps of engineers documeent discussing precautions for the collecting, handling, and testing of Dutch Kills sediments:

All individuals involved in handling contaminated sediment are required to use protective equipment and to submit to blood and urine tests. The protective equipment consists of: 

  • A full-face chemical cartridge respirator (with an organic chemical cartridge and dust filter).
  • A pressure-demand airline respirator, when handling sediment with PCB concentrations ~2,500 ppm. 
  • A polyethylene- or saran-coated tyvek disposable coverall.
  • Inner PVC laboratory gloves with outer neoprene gloves. 
  • Neoprene rubber boots. 
  • Surgical scrubs. 
  • from

    BEGINNING OUT OF THE TUNNEL: The first section of the Long Island Expressway, a one-mile-long, six-lane viaduct over Long Island City, Queens, opened to traffic in 1940 after one year of construction. The new viaduct, whose opening coincided with that of the twin-tube Queens-Midtown Tunnel at its western terminus, had its eastern terminus at the new Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (I-278). At its highest point, the viaduct rises 106 feet above Dutch Kills

    Borden Avenue Bridge by you.

    Borden Avenue Bridge -photo by Mitch Waxman

    Well, here we are, on the Borden Avenue Bridge. Check out these flashy drawbridge lights. Isn’t that cool? Told you I’d show you something cool…

    from the DOT website on the history of the Borden Avenue Bridge, which spans Dutch Kills.

    Borden Avenue is a two-lane local City street in Queens. Borden Avenue runs east-west extending from Second Street at the East River to Greenpoint Avenue. The Borden Avenue Bridge over Dutch Kills is located just south of the Long Island Expressway between 27th Street and Review Avenue in the Sunnyside section of Queens. Borden Avenue Bridge is a retractile type moveable bridge. The general appearance of the bridge remains the same as when it was first opened in 1908. The bridge structure carries a two-lane two-way vehicular roadway with sidewalks on either side. The roadway width is 10.5m and the sidewalks are 2.0 m. The west approach and east approach roadways, which are wider than the bridge roadway, are 15.3m and 13.0m respectively. The bridge provides a horizontal clearance of 14.9m and a vertical clearance in the closed position of 1.2m at MHW and 2.7m at MLW.

    As part of the construction of Borden Avenue in 1868, a wooden bridge was built over Dutch Kills. This bridge was later replaced by an iron swing bridge, which was removed in 1906. The current bridge was opened on March 25, 1908 at a cost of $157,606. The deck’s original design consisted of creosote-treated wood blocks, with two trolley tracks in the roadway. Character-defining features of this bridge include the stucco-clad operator’s house, four pairs of rails, and a rock-faced stone retaining wall. The gable-on-hip roof of the operator’s house retains the original clay tile at the upper part. Although alterations have been made, the bridge is a rare survivor of its type and retains sufficient period integrity to convey its historic design significance.

    The bridge will be closed for construction through July 2009. In addition, there will be parking restrictions in the vicinity of the bridge from January through July 2009 at all times from 25th Street to 30th Place between Borden Avenue and Hunter’s Point/49th Avenue and from 50th Avenue to 51st Avenue between 27th Street and 25th Street.

    IMG_0302_newtowncreek.jpg by you.

    There are also two LIRR rail bridges, visible from Borden Avenue, which are articulated (moving) across the Dutch Kills. Shot taken from upon the waters of the Newtown Creek looking North -photo by Mitch Waxman

    Written by Mitch Waxman

    July 1, 2009 at 12:54 pm

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