The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for July 2009

John J. Harvey Fireboat trip part 1- the North RIver

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Fireboat John J. Harvey by you.

-photo by Mitch Waxman

On July 3rd of 2009, I was invited to ride along on the Fireboat John J. Harvey as it made its way “up” the Hudson River to take part in the July 4th celebrations of the City of Poughkeepsie. Onboard, along with its crew, were a gaggle of photographers and antiquarians. Members and directors of the Working Harbor Committee, the Newtown Creek Alliance, and notable individuals such as maritime photographer Jonathan Atkin and Tugster’s own Will Van Dorp

We boarded the Harvey at Pier 66 in Manhattan, where it shares its berth with other historic vessels such as the Frying Pan.

Tugboat Miriam Moran and cruise ship Carnival Miracle by you.

-photo by Mitch Waxman

Before we even left the dock, the show on (what Will Van Dorp has christened) the sixth borough began. The Tugboat Miriam Moran was guiding the Cruise Ship Carnival Miracle (call sign H3VS) up the Hudson from lower New York Harbor. The Miriam Moran is a 149 ton ship that was built at the McDermott Shipyard in Amelia, LA in November of 1979. The Carvival Miracle is an 85,942 ton ship which carries 934 crew members and up to 2,667 passengers which use 12 elevators to reach its 3 restaurants, 4 swimming pools, and 12 decks. Its 963 feet long and flagged in Panama, and was built at the Aker Yards in Norway in 2004. Miracle cruises at a maximum ocean going speed of 22 knots.

Some sort of controversy erupted onboard the ship a couple of years ago because of a change in itinerary due to Hurricane Hana, resulting in “the miracle riot“.

Tugboat Miriam Moran by you.

-photo by Mitch Waxman

Just a little zoom-in for the Miriam Moran, with New Jersey in the background. For more on the McDermott Shipyards, which built the MM, click here.

Misty Manhattan by you.

-photo by Mitch Waxman

As the Harvey got underway, the weather was definitely not with those of us with cameras in our hands. A misty morning typical of the turbulent atmospherics experienced by New York City in the early summer of 2009, there was a hanging mist in the air. Also, it was just after 7AM, never a good time for shooting on the west side of Manhattan. Centered in the shot above is the Worldwide Plaza, which is a building I used to work in when it housed the advertising agency Ogilvy and Mather in the late 1990’s and early 21st century. 

Midtown Manhattan from Hudson River- Starrett Lehigh building by you.

-photo by Mitch Waxman

The Starrett Lehigh building is an enormous (former) warehouse built to accommodate the thriving rail trade of the early 20th century, and can be found at 601 West 26th Street between 11th and 12th Avenues. Built by the Lehigh Valley Railroad, the SL building had railroad tracks leading into its ground floor, but has had its rail and dock links severed. Once, the railroad would load barges with railcars, and float them across the Hudson to Manhattan tracks which would use Diesel engines to pull them into the building. 

Midtown Manhattan from Hudson by you.

-photo by Mitch Waxman

As the Harvey’s engines began to gather speed, the vast shield wall of the Manhattan Midtown Megaliths began to roll by. Until quite recently, in the area below 34th street and above Canal Street, Manhattan used to be at a relatively human scale. This is why the cultural and artistic communities of New York City agglomerated in this area. The building boom of the last 20 years, however, has continued to follow the debauched urbanist philosophy of vertical separation twixt street and citizen, and is part of the reason why Manhattan is just not fun anymore. Its easy to screw the working class if you live or work in a rarefied atmosphere high over the city- your fellow citizens appear to be ants and you might as well treat them as such. 

Intrepid Aircraft carrier by you.

-photo by Mitch Waxman

The USS Intrepid has returned to its pier at 42nd street, after repairs were mandated and the great ship was drydocked in Bayonne at the former Miltary Ocean Terminal.

editorializing time again:

Incidentally, does anyone else see the irony in the memorial erected by the Russian Federation for the September 11 attacks. The “Tears of Grief“?

“Russian tears” is an ironic euphemism, to me- like “with russian efficiency”.

Nothing against our former mortal enemies, but Russians are not a people known for their “touchie feelie”  politics. It was very nice of them to send us a statue, though.

Tugboat Miriam Moran and cruise ship by you.

-photo by Mitch Waxman

Miriam Moran completing the docking of the Miracle at its destination pier, right next door to the Intrepid. Piers 88,90, and 92 are collectively the New York Passenger Ship Terminal– a 70 year old complex that is desperate need of retrofitting to accommodate the larger Cruise Ships now in demand by the global market. 

from wirednewyork.com

Piers 88, 90, 92

New York has begun an overhaul of the 70-year-old passenger ship terminal on the West Side of Manhattan, which with its forbidding, industrial-like exterior, relatively narrow berths and antiquated waiting rooms has long needed an update.

In Manhattan, the biggest hurdle at the existing terminal, which sits along the Hudson River between West 47th and 53rd Streets, has long been a lack of space. Built in the early 1930’s and last renovated in the early 1970’s, the facility now has three finger piers – Piers 88, 90 and 92 – that are about 1,000 feet long and about 400 feet apart. A terminal building sits atop each.

The piers provide a total of five berths, but they were designed when cruise ships were often only about 80 feet in width. Modern ships now average about 136 feet, with some as wide as 142 feet. As a result, two modern vessels can no longer fit comfortably in the same slip between two of Manhattan’s piers.

The city wants to redesign the Manhattan cruise terminal to handle only three ships at a time, at Piers 88 and 90, but with more berth space for each ship. Pier 92 and its building will continue to be used through 2008, but over the next year the Economic Development Corporation will evaluate other uses for it.

Tugboat Penn. no. 6 and charge by you.

-photo by Mitch Waxman

Penn No.6 Tugboat and its fuel barge. A 580 ton tugboat, built in Pensacola Florida at the Southern Shipbuilding yards in 1970, it has been known in past incarnations as the “Robert Alario” and the “Morania no. 6”. It is owned and operated by Penn maritime. Click here for a zoomed in shot of the Penn no. 6.

79th street Boat Basin long by you.

-photo by Mitch Waxman

Another of Robert Moses’s pet projects, the 79th street boat basin has been providing the upper crust with a manhattan berth since 1937. The only location in Manhattan for a year round residency on a houseboat, Roy Cohn and Frank Sinatra both used to maintain addresses here. One can only hint at the hidden things that transpire here. What transactions are conducted by the ruling class in an isolated aquatic plutocracy just off the coast of Manhattan?

Tugboat Lucy Reinauer by you.

-photo by Mitch Waxman

The Tugboat Lucy Reinauer with its charge. Built in 1973, the ship’s call sign is WCX8054, and it was formerly owned by Texaco marine. Other names it has been known as were:

“MAY MCGUIRL”, “MORANIA NO. 5”, and the “TEXACO DIESEL CHIEF”. It was built at the Jakobson Shipyard, and is 200 tons. For a photo of it in a previous incarnation, visit this link.

Manhattan Harlem shoreline by you.

-photo by Mitch Waxman

Last shot of Manhattan as we continue north on the Harvey. This is somewhere around 125-150 street. 

George Washington Bridge NJ side by you.

-photo by Mitch Waxman

The George Washington Bridge, Jersey landing. (there’s a major GW Bridge post in your future, Newtownicans, we’re glossing over the arcana for now)

George Washington Bridge NY side by you.

-photo by Mitch Waxman

The George Washington Bridge, Manhattan landing.

Down under the George Washington Bridge by you.

-photo by Mitch Waxman

Down under the George Washington Bridge, aka DUGWO.

George Washington bridge from the north by you.

-photo by Mitch Waxman

Goodbye megalopolis, and the lower part of the Hudson River that atavists and extant maritime notations refer to as “the North River“.

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 26, 2009 at 3:56 pm

Posted in newtown creek

Never complain, never explain

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Sorry gang, its been a very busy week for old Mitch (advertising freelance photo retoucher and all around production guy). There is SO MUCH in the chute on its way to y’all, Newtown Pentacle updates will resume within the next 48 hours. Got two photowalks, a fireboat trip, and lots more hidden truths on the way.

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 25, 2009 at 10:26 am

Posted in newtown creek

Wow, Forgotten Queens Plaza

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Just read an awesome forgotten-ny page walking through Queens Plaza and environs. Check it out here.

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 20, 2009 at 1:20 am

Balm and bitterness, your humble narrator

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NYC panorama2 by you.

Queens museum of art. worlds fair panorama of the entire city -photo by Mitch Waxman

Recently received critiques of the Newtown Pentacle, while undeservedly gracious and overwhelmingly positive, have pointed out that I have a tendency to paint the Newtown Creek as some annex of hell- populated by a relict population of atavist industrialists and lurking gangsters ready to prey upon innocent passersby. I also tend to speak with an authority which I don’t possess, although I strive to speak intelligently, as far I’m able to, and attempt to find and link to original sources.  As I’ve said since my first post- If I’m wrong, let me know, as corrections and addendums are always welcome at the Newtown Pentacle. If you’ve got something to say or announce- please contact me.

A little about your narrator-

Let me state categorically however, that I when I walk these streets I do so as an outsider, alien, and antiquarian. On a journey of revelation seeking the penitent redemption of a mendicant soul, the Newtown Creek offers me a corridor of remarkable introspection. The observations of the wonders of this place are what compelled me to begin the Newtown Pentacle, and write about MY Newtown Creek. When I reach my rotting hand out to the mirror surface of Dutch Kills, the monster I see… I’m all effed-up.

My pedantic and tiresome personal perspective (formed whole cloth from comic books and movies) is always that of the shunned, the disappointed, the confused- God’s forgotten and lonely man. All of this is the product of a sheltered childhood spent in lonely rooms filled with dusty hangings- and only a bw TV serving as a playmate. I’m kind of a drag to hang out with, and always disappoint the expectations of others. Sickly, pale, and obsessed with odd subjects that appeal only to fellow acolytes of the bizarre and hidden- I am a noxious and disagreeable man best experienced at a distance.

This rather dire self image I’ve cultivated produces an outlook that sees our world as a ruined and incomprehensible abattoir of hidden dangers and unreasonable horror (and subjects my wife, the ever patient and long suffering “Our lady of the Pentacle”, to endless ruminations on perceived sleights, discernments, and punditry). An unreasonable and unattainable set of personal standards- which I have never met- further frustrates, angers, and drives me to melancholy.

Boo-Hoo.

This carefully preserved late adolescent viewpoint often colors my writing, and the critiques received are apt and accepted. 

Ugly bird by you.

In a burned out taxi, Long Island City -photo by Mitch Waxman

My dire and depressed outlook on life, I fear, may be helping to solidify a notion of the Newtown Creek as a hopeless and negative place which concretizes the viewpoints of those who would wish to just pave over it and erect a 4 mile long stretch of condo buildings, and I need to correct these impressions. 

It is difficult not to focus on the horror when discussing this area- and It would be irresponsible (imho) not to warn potential visitors to the Creek of the physical and existential hazards that are encountered in the exploration of its more extant neighborhoods on foot- especially when supplying maps and turn by turn directions for foot paths, but let me be clear- there is great hope for the future at the Newtown Creek.

Look at the experiences of the residents of Seoul, when “their newtown creek- the Cheonggyecheon” was given the attention and care it deserved- read about it in a recent New York Times article.

The story of the Singapore River, another example of a vital industrial waterway that runs through an island city-state, may also bring hope to we Newtownicans.

our pal sweetpea212, a member of our flickr group and a singaporean, supplied the following series of links on the Singapore river:

Singapore Archives Singapore Archive online search engine: not much written material here, just synopsis of some oral transcripts and such. But a lot of archival phots with a huge watermark. I encompassed a period from the 1935 – 2009. You certainly could plug in an earlier date to see what comes up. Here is a blog I like to check in with every once in a while:

http://timesofmylife.wordpress.com/2008/06/02/lost-islands-of-the-singapore-river-part-1/

http://timesofmylife.wordpress.com/2008/06/23/lost-islands-of-the-singapore-river-part-2/

http://timesofmylife.wordpress.com/?s=singapore+river

And another with a few more anecdotal stories: http://yesterday.sg/search-results/?cx=001011373528597749361%3Atdwtld9f8fs&cof=FORID%3A11&ie=UTF-8&q=singapore+river&sa.x=0&sa.y=0&sa=Search#1118

On cleaning the Singapore River:

http://www1.moe.edu.sg/learn@/singaporerivertrail/sec/G041_Dunman_Sec/river_cleaning.htm

http://www.unescap.org/drpad/vc/conference/ex_sg_14_csr.htm

http://infopedia.nl.sg/articles/SIP_398__2008-12-02.html

www.pub.gov.sg/general/Documents/Cleanriver2.pdf

http://apfed-db.iges.or.jp/dtlbpp.php?no=23

http://www.asianjourneys.org/?p=25

http://www.recyclingpoint.com.sg/Articles/1990Dec19BigRiverCleanup.htm

http://www.fas.nus.edu.sg/geog/SingaporeRiver/Ppr4a.htm

Chicago deals with a problematic waterway called Bubbly Creek, whose 19th and 20th century history eerily mirrors the Newtown Creek’s own. Here’s the plan they are following.

All three examples above were accomplished by Democratically elected governments, although all of them (especially Chicago) possess dictatorial powers that would make even New York’s Mayor blush. The question is ultimately- What  are WE willing to do about it. What can WE spend, in time and treasure, to craft the kind of Newtown Creek we’d like to hand off to the future.

I see 2 viable options, both of which I suggest you do your own research on and form your own opinions. There are “powers that be” to consider- the eggheads from the universities who have the ears of the political class- the owners of the land- the communities that surround the area- the vested interest of the municipalities involved. There’s history and archaeological considerations- this is the epicenter of the Industrial revolution where the Monitor was built, the Oil industry was born, and Jell-O was invented. There’s also active rail, and a still working maritime industry. And tens of thousands of people work here.

A- Restoration of much of the Newtown Creek to a somewhat natural state, purposed as a mixed use waterway.

wnyc Newtown Creek Nature Walk by you.

from the “WNYC Newtown Creek Sewage Treatment Plant Nature Walk with Architect George Trakas” event -photo by Mitch Waxman

Any remediation effort would have to involve large scale dredging of the sediments in the waterway, aeration of English Kills,Dutch Kills, Bushwick and Maspeth Creek, restoration of most of the currently bulkheaded shorelines to wetland, and an uprooting of many of the remaining heavy industries- as well as a complete cessation of municipal sewage outfall. Also, a source of fresh water, a flushing tunnel, would be required to supply a current to the Creek or it will just stay stagnant. The brownfields of the former industrial sites on both sides would then need to be sanitarily capped using the same technologies which seal the surface of garbage landfills. Funding for a project of this scale would most likely necessitate federal Superfund status for the Newtown Creek watershed (which ultimately includes the east side of Manhattan and the north coast of Brooklyn, as well as all of northwest Queens).

Sample plans for this herculean effort are discussed here, and here. At the moment, this seems like the way forward. We favor this one officially at the Pentacle, because we live here, and because it involves science. Of course, every generation has had its own plan to clean up the Creek. Personally, I don’t see superfund coming though, because trillions of dollars of real estate would be devalued by the process. Which beggars the question- Without federal money, who gets to pay to clean up Newtown Creek?

B- Municipal Sacrifice zone

Down under the Kosciuszko bridge -DUKBO -photo by Mitch Waxman

The period of time during which the United States nuclear program was involved in the cold war gave birth to the notion of “a national sacrifice zone“, defining areas too expensive to clean up, or areas like the Los Alamos nuclear testing zone which are hopelessly lethal to human life. 

Leave Newtown Creek the way it stands right now, and continue to focus the dirty and vital industries of New York City here- the recycling and garbage trade, trucking and warehousing operations, the petrochemical industry- in an area that’s already hopelessly and irredeemably polluted. Build power plants and sewage treatment plants of unparalleled size.

If this was the option (which it seems to have been for much of the 20th century), then all new residential construction in this red zone needs to be stopped immediately, and all the new population concentrations at Hunters Point and Greenpoint- and plans for further construction in East Williamsburg and Bushwick- foreseen by PlaNYC 2030 need to be reconsidered. The positives of this plan would be that for all its sins- a lot of otherwise unemployable people will find work here, no new wetlands will be lost, and the Newtown Creek (even today) is a huge earner.

This is the least favorable option, obviously, as it ensures that the children of the Newtown Pentacle will continue to live in a polluted urban distopia and its photographers will continue to marvel at floating pieces of poop.

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 19, 2009 at 12:34 pm

Posted in newtown creek

Hook and Ladder 66

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g10_img_6230_jul4_hl66_1.jpg by you.

-photo by Mitch Waxman

Just off the corner of Steinway is 38-13 Northern Blvd. It stands opposite the cyclopean Standard Motor Products building, and at the foot of the bridge which carries Steinway into 39th street and south to Skillman Avenue over the Sunnyside Yards. Currently, the structure houses part of the NYPD’s ESU units- the Emergency Medical Squad. The building was originally a firehouse- the Hook and Ladder 66.

The earliest volunteer fire company in Newtown was organized in 1843- the Wadownock Fire, Hook & Ladder No. 1. By 1902, there were 66 distinct volunteer fire departments in Queens. 19th century Long Island City was served by (amongst others) the Astoria Engine Co., the Hunter Engine Co., the Mohawk Hose Co., and the Tiger Hose Co. In 1890, the legislature of New York State abolished the volunteer departments, seeking to create a paid and professional force of firefighters. In Long Island City, as many as nine units were created, and then reorganized in 1894, as rampant political corruption had rendered the new units impotent against all but the smallest blazes. This corruption was centered around Long Island City’s mayor- Patrick “Battleax” Gleason- or was at least blamed on him by his enemies in the press. 

The critical date for this story is 1898, when Long Island City joined in the municipality of the City of Greater New York, and its firefighters joined the FDNY. 

g10_img_5121_nyc by you.

-photo by Mitch Waxman

In 1900, FDNY Commissioner JJ Scannell proposed a sweeping expansion of fire service citywide, but especially in underserved Long Island City. The “Board of Estimate and Apportionment” was asked to make funds available for infrastructure- specifically fire houses. Built concurrently with the landmarked Engine 158 fire house at 10-40 47th Avenue, the building was budgeted to cost $18,000 to build and complete in 1901, but ended up costing $23,000 when it was dedicated in 1905. The architecture firm which built it was Paris & Schroeder, who designed the Bowery YMCA and many other Tammany projects. Along with the Engine 158 structure, this building was designed and overseen by Ernest Flagg and Bradford Lee GIlbert. Check this link out, for some local FDNY color from 1899.

Ernest  Flagg at wikipedia

Courtesy of MIT:

Beaux-Arts Architect and Urban Reformer
Mardges Bacon

Architect of the United States Naval Academy, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the Scribner Building, and model tenement houses, Ernest Flagg (1857-1947) advanced the cause of classicism while demonstrating a deep concern for architecture’s social responsibility. This study of one of the most innovative practitioners of the Beaux-Arts movement in America covers Flagg’s early training and Beaux-Arts works, his town and country houses, his commercial and utilitarian buildings, the Singer Tower (which established a new height record while setting a precedent for New York City skyscraper restrictions in scale and density), urban housing reform, and his small houses of modular design.

Flagg, the author notes, combined French nineteenth century aesthetics and the principles of academic classicism with American structural technology to create significant buildings during the Progressive Era from 1890 to 1917. His contributions to zoning and height regulations were essential to New York’s first laws governing this aspect of the city’s architecture. A confirmed individualist, Flagg produced highly original writings and ingenious inventions for construction techniques in low-cost housing and railroad cars.

Flagg’s adaptation of classicism and his concern for urban contextualism make this study of his work particularly timely. His designs have immediate relevance for contemporary architects and preservationists, as well as those interested in the social and architectural history of New York City.

Pictures & Flagg’s plan to extend Manhattan’s grid

Engine Co. 33

Courtesy of Bradford Lee Gilbert.com

Bradford Lee Gilbert
(March 24, 1853 – September 1, 1911)

Bradford Lee Gilbert was born in Watertown, New York to parents Marie Antoinette (Bacon) and Horatio Gates Gilbert. Mr. Gilbert was well educated having attended Sedgwick Institute, Gt. Barrington, Siglar’s School, Newburg, Irvington and Yale College.

He was a member of the New York Chapter of American Institute of Architects, The National Sculpture Society, The Architectural League, The National Arts Club, The Transportation Club, The Quill Club, The Riding Club, and The Chicago Club.

Mr. Gilbert enjoyed many distinctions, but was a driving force in the growing railroad industry. He was the consulting architect to eighteen of the principal railroads in America, and was appointed as official architect to the New York, Lake Erie and Western Railroad under Octave Chanute (who assisted in the Wright Brother’s creation of airplanes).

Mr. Gilbert played a major role in other railroad companies like, the enlargement to the first Grand Central Station in New York; the Illinois Central Station in Chicago, Illinois; the Boston & Maine Union Station in Lowell, Maine and many others.

Bradford passed away in Accord, Ulster County, New York of Dropsy.

One of the few buildings attributed to him that wasn’t part of a railroad

g10_img_6236_jul4_hl66_2.jpg by you.

-photo by Mitch Waxman

In January of 1913, all Brooklyn and Queens fire companies had their unit numbers moved forward by 100- thus Engine 158 became 258. Hook and ladder 166’s history gets a little hazy in the intervening years, and a unit with the 166 designation seems to still be extant in Brooklyn- but the history of the FDNY is best discussed by experts. At some intervening point in the last hundred years that I have not been able to pin down (most likely the early 80’s), the building passed into the hands of the Police department which assigned its ESU NYPD Emergency Medical Squad to the premise. They are the current stakeholders, in this part of the Newtown Pentacle.

ESU are the Green Berets of the NYPD, assigned the most challenging and dangerous jobs. Most are former United States Special Forces or U.S. Marines who bring ingenious skills and hard won experience to work every day. If you are in real trouble in New York City, the ESU is your personal Batman. Two fully loaded paramedic ambulances and a variety of specialized response vehicles are based here. ESU medical is commanded by a 35 year NYPD veteran and former Marine, Chief of Special Operations Charles D. Kammerdener.

7/19/09 Note and addendum: Queenscrap ran a blog post about this article, and “anonymous” posted this in their comments:

Ladder 66 is now Ladder 116 (all companies renumbered in 1913 after NYC expanded, the E158 house is really Engine 258)
The Ladder Company that occupied this Northern Blvd house is now located on 29th St near 37th Ave and was quartered with Engine 261 for over 80 years until “King Bloomberg” closed E261 in May 2003

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 16, 2009 at 9:28 pm

CHHNP (Health and Harms) on BCAT

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The Newtown Creek Community Health and Harms Narrative Project is the lead story on BCAT this month, to view the episode click here.  If you or someone you know would like to have their voice included in the Community Health and Harms Narrative Project please contact us at newtowncreekstudy@gmail.com or (718) 577-1359.

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 16, 2009 at 9:17 am

Posted in newtown creek

the Wrong side of the tracks, a walk in Maspeth

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

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. Also, Please note — the opinions expressed in italics in this story are the author’s opinions and observations and not necessarily factual.

Over Hill and Dale, part 1- Maspeth Creek

check out the walk in a Google Map here.

g10_img_5359_lic_masptrk1.jpg by you.

-photo by Mitch Waxman

This is another Saturday or Sunday kind of photowalk thing. You really don’t want to be here during the week on foot. VERY dangerous place.

At 56th road, between 48th and 50th streets in Queens, is a non-existent crosswalk found at the confluence of 49th street and an active (street-grade level) railroad track. This is an insanely dangerous patch of road running through a literal industrial backwater.

Be ever so careful crossing here- remember that guy who got dragged a few months ago? That happened not too far from here. There are giant machines flying around at top speed all around you. Be wary. We’re going to walk part of the Maspeth Plank Road today, more or less.

g10_img_5308_lic_masp.jpg by you.

-photo by Mitch Waxman

Incidentally, these rail tracks and buildings are the proposed site for the Maspeth Rail Tunnel.

WRONG-  Christina from Forgotten-NY was kind enough to correct us here.

“I appreciate the walk through Maspeth however there is no planned tunnel construction Queens for the Cross Harbor Project. Phelps Dodge would be the site of an intermodal rail-to-truck facility. The tunnel is from NJ to Bklyn. Here is a map.”

g10_img_5314_lic_maspro2.jpg by you.

-photo by Mitch Waxman

On your left is an enigmatic site that the DEP has labeled “the Maspeth Project”. This, of course, sets me off into endless speculations. As does the term “Maspeth Railroad Place site” that’s used to describe it.

from the DEC      

Administrative Information 

Site Name: Maspeth Project

Site Code: B00152

Program: Environmental Restoration Program

Classification: A

EPA ID Number:

Location

DEC Region: 2

Address: 57-15 49th Street

City: New York City Zip: 11378-

County:Queens

Latitude: 40.724616420

Longitude: -73.919630760

Site Type:

Estimated Size: 2.800 Acres

Site Description

The Maspeth Railroad Place site is located in an industrialized area of Queens County, New York. The site is approximately 3-acres in size, and can be found at 57-15 49th Street. The main site features include a fenced lot which constitutes the majority of the site. There are no perminent structures on the lot. The headwaters of Maspeth Creek are located approximately 100 hundred feet from the site. The site is currently vacant, though there is evidence of some trespassing. The site is surrounded by industrial/commercial properties on all sides. The site has had several industrial/commercial uses over the years, but is reported to have been most recently the site of a bus maintenance facility. A former chemicals blending operation was located immediately adjacent to the site, and there was some concern that wastes from that operation could have contaminated the site. The Remedial Investigation is complete, and the alternatives analysis has been submitted in draft form. The City of New York has amended the State Assistance Contract to include funds for removing an underground storage tank which was found during the site investigation. That work was conducted in the spring and summer of 2008. Work continues on finalizing the alternatives analysis.

Contaminants of Concern (Including Materials Disposed)

Type of Waste Quantity of Waste

BENZO(A)PYRENE UNKNOWN

BIS(2-ETHYLHEXYL)PHTHALATE UNKNOWN

XYLENE (MIXED) UNKNOWN

Site Environmental Assessment

The primary contaminants of concern at the site are petroleum related compounds. Preliminary data indicated the possible presence of a common plasticizer (bis-2-ethylhexyl pthalate) at elevated levels in groundwater and soils, however, more recent data indicated much lower levels than previously reported. The study is on-going, but some localized soils and groundwater contamination has been identified. Groundwater is above standards for petroleum compounds. The site has not been determined to be a significant threat to the environment.

Site Health Assessment

Soil and groundwater are contaminated with petroleum-related volatile and semi-volatile organic compounds. Exposure to contaminated groundwater is not expected because the area is served by public water. The area is heavily industrialized and the site is partially fenced, but tresspassers may be exposed to contaminated surface soil.

g10_img_5316_lic_maspro3.jpg by you.

-photo by Mitch Waxman

from Serphin Maltese’s website

10/4/00 BROWNFIELDS GRANT TO HELP MASPETH

Wednesday, 04 October 2000 00:00 

News Archives – 2000

Senator Serphin R. Maltese (Queens) announced a $412,500 grant from the Clean Water/Clean Air Bond Act will be used to investigate potential environmental contamination at the site of the Maspeth Project.

“On behalf of the residents and their families of the Maspeth and Queens communities, I wish to express our sincere appreciation to Governor Pataki for this vital brownfields funding. It will enable us to investigate and clean up property in many of our vibrant Queens neighborhoods,” said Senator Maltese.

“New York’s Brownfields Program is helping cities across the State revitalize our urban landscape by turning abandoned and underused properties into community assets,” said Governor Pataki. “This grant is a perfect example of how funding from the Clean Water/Clean Air Bond Act is fostering environmental renewal, creating economic opportunity and improving the quality of life of all New Yorkers.”

Senator Maltese explained that the brownfields grant will be used to investigate suspected contamination at a 2.8 acre site located at 57-15 49th Street in Maspeth. The property, which the City acquired after it was condemned, is located in a heavy manufacturing zone and has been vacant for many years. The site was previously used for bus maintenance and storage, a silkscreen printing facility and a graphic dye cutter operation. The City plans to use the site for a consolidated water and sewer maintenance facility for the NYC Department of Environmental Protection.

“New York’s Brownfields Program is one of the best-funded of its kind in the nation and it is helping bring jobs, parks and new housing to communities throughout the state at sites that previously were unusable,” said Senator Maltese.

The Clean Water/Clean Air Bond Act, proposed by Governor Pataki and approved by voters in 1996, authorizes $1.75 billion for several environmental programs. It includes $200 million for grants to municipalities for costs associated with the investigation and cleanup of brownfields, which are abandoned or underused properties where real or perceived environmental contamination hinders the potential for redevelopment.

For more on Serphin Maltese, click here.

g10_img_5320_lic_mascrk1.jpg by you.

-photo by Mitch Waxman

On your right- the Kosciuszko bridge in the background, with the Davis & Warshow warehouse in the foreground, and the Newtown Creek spreads greasily around you. Get your shots in this summer, Newtownicans, the bridge is scheduled to be replaced and then torn down

g10_img_5352_lic_mascrk5.jpg by you.

-photo by Mitch Waxman

Maspeth Creek is a tributary of the Newtown Creek that makes its first noxious appearance here. It is the most polluted part of the Newtown Creek watershed. One wonders how long this waterway, which drew the Dutch here, will survive modernity. This, of course, is not the first indignity suffered by nature at the hands of municipal planners.

g10_img_5323_lic_mascrk2.jpg by you.

-photo by Mitch Waxman

Water quality is always terrible here, but I’ve seen it worse than this. There’s an outfall sewer directly below the camera’s POV. The smell is…

from the EPA

Address Maspeth Creek, Queens, NY

Categories Water, Sewage/Garbage, Health and Toxics Neighborhood Maspeth

Keywords CSO, Newtown Creek Owner/Occupant NYC Department of Environmental Protection – if you see discharge during dry weather call 311 with the outfall number ready

Location Details CSO Outfall NC-077 -discharges 288.7M gallons per year into English Kills -Tier 2 outfall -Ranked 25 out of over 400 in terms of volume -located at Maspeth Creek 

g10_img_5324_lic_mascrk3.jpg by you.

-photo by Mitch Waxman

Did you know that one leg of the new City Water Tunnel number 3 runs from Maspeth to Red Hook? Eventually, it will be a subterranean conduit for drinking water running throughout the entire city, when completed in 2020.

g10_img_5332_lic_maspave.jpg by you.

-photo by Mitch Waxman

Advice:

Maspeth avenue is populated by many, many people who wouldn’t like you taking their picture, lords and ladies of Newtown. If you catch my drift, this is a good place to be covert with your camera. Not to imply that corruption and racketeering ever had anything to do with any of the neighborhoods surrounding the Newtown Creek- or that the New York City garbage hauling and trucking industries have ever been anything other than above board, but watch out for yourself here.

These days- in our modern New York- where there has been no police corruption since 1992, and crime has fallen an aggregate 79% in that period, people have gotten used to walking around like they’re safe or something. 

g10_img_5335_lic_masp4902.jpg by you.

-photo by Mitch Waxman

Proceeding around the bend from 49th street to 48 st, on your right will be a succession of recycling and garbage processing companies, and a huge sanitation garage dominates the end of the block at the turn to 58th road.

Be conservative with your camera here. Cop hassles are the last thing you’re worrying about around these parts- its private security and union guys. This is not the safe little world you know from television, this is the real world with its own set of rules- and you are a guest on these streets. Don’t fool around with these fencelines, urban explorer types. And look out for trucks.

g10_img_5345_lic_masp4906.jpg by you.

-photo by Mitch Waxman

On your left are a series of faceless factories squatting squamously in the Newtown sun.

g10_img_5336_lic_masp4903.jpg by you.

-photo by Mitch Waxman

At the end of 58th road are the remains of the Maspeth Avenue Bridge- a toll bridge whose owners were incorporated as early as 1836. Its the last visible remnant of the Maspeth Plank Road, which last crossed the Newtown Creek in 1875.

forgotten-ny went down the Newtown Creek a few years ago on the John J. Harvey fireboat- check it out.

from one of my earlier postings that connects up with this one-

The Night Soil and Offal Docks, and Jell-O

…over on the Greenpoint side when I read about “Conrad Wessel’s noxious and pestilential night soil and offal dock on Furman’s Island, along the Newtown Creek”. This reference was connected to Gov. Flower’s “smelling committee” which traveled up Newtown Creek in a steamboat during the summer of 1894 to confirm that the waterway did, in fact, smell. The Smelling Committee placed much blame for the miasma which permeated Long Island City, Dutch Kills, and Greenpoint at the doorstep of the bone boilers on Furman’s Island. 

A muddy patch midway at the branch of Maspeth Creek with the main waterway, Furman’s (originally Smith’s) island was connected to the shore by a plank road. This plank road would later become Maspeth Avenue. At the corner of Gardner, where the Maspeth Tanks towered until just recently- was Peter Cooper’s Glue Factory. This picture is from the Brooklyn public library:

g10_img_5337_lic_masp4904.jpg by you.

-photo by Mitch Waxman

To your right will be a gigantic Sanitation Garage, to your left is 47th street, in front of you is a patch of mud and the Newtown Creek and what remains of another world.

If you’re heading back to Greenpoint or Williamsburg- take 47th to Grand Avenue and make a right to go over the Grand Avenue Bridge.

Before Grand St. in Brooklyn was extended into Queens (where it becomes Grand Avenue), the Maspeth Avenue Bridge (along with Penny Bridge) served the 19th century multitudes traveling to and from the Cemetery Belt- specifically Calvary and Mt. Zion.

from another one of my earlier postings that connects up with this one-

The Cemetery Belt

Death was and is big business, and Long Island City was and is all about business. Ferry service ran from Manhattan and Brooklyn bringing the bereaved up Newtown Creek to the New Calvary Pier in Blissville.

The Long Island Railroad maintained a station at Penny Bridge carrying mourners from all points east. Funeral processions involved marching bands and extensive paegentry. A trip to the graveyard was like visiting a sculpture park for the whole family, with exquisite landscaping and an arboretum of exotic trees and flowering plants sprouting from a grassy hill. Clothes were crisply laundered in boiling water (using lye as a detergent), children ordered to behave or else . What a change, if only for a few hours, from the gaslit darkness of Manhattan’s tenement alleys. A beautiful day with the family, spent at the Newtown Creek.

g10_img_5340_lic_masp4905.jpg by you.

-photo by Mitch Waxman

Take one last look, HEY- that’s the Empire State Building, isn’t that cool? Told you I’d show you something cool.

 

 

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 16, 2009 at 1:55 am

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