The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for September 2009

DUMBO… or missing my Dad

with 3 comments

A little personal history this time, folks, bear with me, I’m particularly eff’ed up in September.

Tug boat passes Manhattan Bridge 1 by you.

This tug, the Dorothy J, is pushing a barge of shredded autos, most likely coming from the Newtown Creek, down the East River. Manhattan Bridge in background. – photo by Mitch Waxman

I grew up in a solidly working class neighborhood in Brooklyn, first in Flatbush and later- to my utter disbelief- a place called Futurama which was either in Canarsie or Flatlands or Old Mill Basin depending on who you asked. When I was a kid, me and my friend Joey Miller- who was from a family of Sheepshead Bay sailors- would climb the fenceline at a kosher chicken processing plant and pee on the snapping guard dogs- dobermans- kept there during working hours. My friends and I would wander the glass strewn streets in the 1980’s, looking for dud firecrackers to harvest black powder from, which would later be used to fuel our plastic model reenactments of 2nd world war battles- played out in the sandlots around the Paerdegat Basin.

All the 1970’s and 80’s Brooklyn stuff which has been famously dramatized by Hollywood- the blackouts, the Yankees, racial conflict, the fellas, the graffiti trains, and crack, the Son of Sam– this was where I grew up. This is the “do or die” years, not the happily dancing borough of modernity. Back then, Williamsburg was the worst neighborhood in Brooklyn. I always wanted to be “an artist” someday, and live in Manhattan, which was VERY far from Brooklyn back then.

Manhattan Bridge by you.

Manhattan Bridge with Manhattan in background. – photo by Mitch Waxman

My Dad grew up in a solidly working class neighborhood in depression era Brooklyn, in Borough Park, and Maimonides Hospital sprawls atop the site of the ancestral seat. “Jewish” is the way the old man would describe his childhood, and he always got shy when queried for details of his life before the Air Force. He would just say “we got drunk and did stupid things”, or allude to all night card games played on fire escapes in a time ” when you could leave your door unlocked, during the war”. After finishing a vocational program at Automotive High School in the mid 50’s- he was drafted into a paratrooper division of the Air Force and became a parachute packing specialist in Newfoundland for the Strategic Air Command, where he claimed to have been “the best fisherman on the entire base”. The old man always got a misty look on his face when discussing this period of his life. After the service, He moved back to Brooklyn. Eventually – he met Mumsies, and they melted into the huge population of secular Jews living in Brooklyn during the 1960’s. She forced him to learn how to drive, he always said, and he bought a Chrysler. Dad liked Chrysler automobiles, as he believed them to have the strongest air conditioners, although he would never shell out for a decent radio.

Manhattan Bridge by you.

Manhattan Bridge with Brooklyn in background. – photo by Mitch Waxman

A self employed house painter in business with his elder brother, my old man was up early and home after dark. I came along in 67, and my early childhood was filled with car trips to amusement parks and familial relations as far away as Washington D.C. Dad always made it a point of hitting this museum, or that iconic attraction, often taking a gaggle of cousins with us. Corpulent, pale, and with a permanently sweaty band of hair plastered to my forehead– the son he was devoted to was an ungrateful worm lost in a comic book reality dreaming of a day when his real life would begin- over in “the city”. Morose and self absorbed, often churlish and always foolish, my father’s only son was and is a heaving wreck barely worthy of the food he eats. The old man never wavered, even when his painting business failed in the early 70’s, and he was forced into the humiliating experience of searching for work during the weakest hour of the American Century.

Incidentally- the old man was STRONG, and that’s from an adult perspective. The kind of deep core strength you get from working with your hands, climbing ladders while carrying 9 or 10 buckets of housepaint, packing parachutes. I once saw him pick up a two by four and snap it in half just using his wrists, he would push nails into walls with his thumb, lift fully loaded -1960’s era- refrigerators with one arm. Strong. He never used that strength on me, though, which was atypical parenting in my old neighborhood. He was more subtle, and wore a pinky ring, which he would just flick onto the very crown of my head. I can still feel it today.

Bonk! It’s me not good at talk, why.

UMBO by you.

Manhattan Bridge with Brooklyn in background. – photo by Mitch Waxman

Dad actually got kind of lucky, in he long run, when he took a job that didn’t pay well- but had “benefits”. Back then, health insurance was a perk for non-union employees, and employers offered it competitively in order to attract the best and brightest. The old man, who was really starting to put on weight by this point (He was around age 40-45- by 50 he was experiencing severe and routine attacks of angina pectoralis), got a job with the New York Foundling Hospital, which was located for many years opposite the FBI Building on Third avenue in Manhattan’s upper east side. Eventually, both institutions moved downtown, with the Catholic Archdioscese run hospital taking up residence on 6th avenue.

Dad began to drive to work, as his Doctors had advised him that the daily ascent of subway stairs was an unreasonable risk for him to assume given his heart condition. His son, by this point, was 18 and starting college at the School of Visual Arts a few blocks away. A miserable wretch and profligate still, his son would not be able to pay Manhattan rents and had opted to continue sucking at the familial teat during this time. So was born young Mitch and father Barry’s morning drives to the City.

DUMBO 1 by you.

Manhattan Bridge with Brooklyn in background. – photo by Mitch Waxman

By this time, the Chrysler had given way to the worst American car of the 1980’s- an ’83 Buick Century– which had a AM radio. He actually told the dealer that he specifically didn’t want an AM/FM- which was standard!

Howard Stern was still on WNBC, but the old man insisted on listening to 1010 WINS (a friend from college, Leslie Martelli, was interning at the station and this made the infinite news loop- so common today- bearable). Traffic was always terrible, but like all Brooklynites, we had secret shortcuts and discerned “light sequences” along thoroughfares (we’d go exactly 22 mph down eastern parkway and catch every green light from…). I’d be babbling on, in my morning caffeine fueled ecstasies, about the hidden green flames of revelation which I’d discovered at art school- or thrilling him with a story about some college party- when he’d stop me and tell me not to argue with my mother, nor let anyone take advantage of me (you’re too trusting, don’t trust people you just meet), and to think about the future so “I don’t end up like him”. Then he’d BONK me with that damn ring.

We always used the Manhattan Bridge when I drove, the Battery Tunnel when he did. I wanted to make the journey end quickly, he wanted to hang out with his weirdo kid a little bit longer.

DUMBO 2 by you.

DUMBO – photo by Mitch Waxman

Eventually, to my shame, I let my parents move out to …Staten Island… after the old man got his gold watch and retired. His weirdo kid had sort of done OK, and was living in Manhattan with a wife. I did manage to convince my parents not to take an apartment (literally) across the street from Fresh Kills, which they were looking at in January. “I don’t smell a thing, you’re crazy” my mother argued. They were living in an apartment complex near the Verrazano Bridge for about a year when he was diagnosed with Pancreas Cancer.

The operation to remove it, while successful, started a decline in his health and mood that ultimately destroyed him. Recovery and further treatment- chemotherapy and radiation- was the beginning of a drawn out process that eventually ended due to two new tumors that turned up in his liver. My mom called me home from a trip to Vermont, taken against her advice, saying that the old man was dying.

After completing the epic journey from shadowed Vermont to …Staten Island… in record time, and in reckless defiance of the speed limits of several counties, we avoided the late night construction traffic along the BQE by using Manhattan’s FDR drive, we crossed the East River using the Manhattan Bridge to egress through Bay Ridge to the Verrazano. Our Lady of the Pentacle and I arrived around his sickbed just as he opened his eyes, saw his weirdo son, grabbed his hand- and died. It was the day before Yom Kippur, which seems appropriate somehow.

My Dad was a simple guy who never had his story told, and that’s a shame. His name was Barry.

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 15, 2009 at 2:45 pm

Calvary Mystery Box

with 4 comments

g10_img_6870_phwlk.jpg by you.

Calvary Cemetery at 48th street – photo by Mitch Waxman

As one proceeds up the glacier carved hillocks that define northwestern Queens- climbing away from the terrors of Laurel Hill and leaving the malefic secrets of Maspeth and the Newtown Creek behind, the intrepid pedestrian will pass under and above an arcade of highways and find second Calvary.

Old Calvary is the original cemetery- second, third, and fourth Calvary are the metastasized and sprawling additions to the venerable original- and a significant portion of the Cemetery Belt.

g10_img_6873_phwlk.jpg by you.

Calvary Cemetery at 48th street – photo by Mitch Waxman

Calvary Cemetery is the organizational name for the vast funerary complex, and the vast majority of it sits well above street grade- with the graves set 6-7 feet or more above eye level along its fencelines. In lonely moments of reflection, I will remark to myself- one such as myself is always alone, even when in the company of friends and familial relations– about my proximity to the mouldering corpses sequestered in festering splendors beyond the cement retaining wall. Fantastic visions appear to me, of rotting hands reaching through the cracked and pitted concrete, and pulling me into their sepulchral world. I’ve often believed this will be my fate, to ride the night winds with an army of ghouls, and know the splendors of Persephone in her palace of mists- as part of her gaunt legion. I’m all ‘effed up.

While lost in my self aggrandizement, I noticed this box.

g10_img_8086_bday.jpg by you.

Calvary Mystery Box on 48th street – photo by Mitch Waxman

I should mention that- “in the field”– the label on this box was misread by your humble narrator, and my error filled me with fancies. I read it as “Catholic Protection Rectifier”, with the secondary label admonishing that this box must remain padlocked at all times. I wondered aloud- does it contain some emergency supply of Eucharist or Holy Water for usage by a squad of the Jesuit Emergency Services Unit (the JESU) which stands ready to be dispatched to combat an outbreak of Vampirism – or even an appearance by flesh eating mobs of the Living Dead? I am a fool, of course, and should read things more carefully.

g10_img_8087_bday.jpg by you.

Calvary Mystery Box on 48th street – photo by Mitch Waxman

The enigmatic steel box contains a Cathodic Protection Rectifier.

Apparently- Cathodic Protection is an electrical technology widely used in pipelines, buried metallic structures, and in maritime situations to guard against corrosion. Operating on the theory that by supplying a specific electrical frequency to a metallic structure, even one clad in masonry or immersed in sea water, an ionic charge imparted by the current will not allow oxygen to bind into the affected alloy at a molecular level. Its the reverse of electroplating, essentially, to my ignorant and amateur vantage point of observation. I’m not much of anything, but I’m especially not an engineer. Cathodic Protection Rectifiers are news to me, I thought it a Catholic Protection Rectifier after all.

This unit was manufactured by Corrpro Canada Inc.

from wikipedia

Cathodic protection (CP) is a technique to control the corrosion of a metal surface by making it work as a cathode of an electrochemical cell. This is achieved by placing in contact with the metal to be protected another more easily corroded metal to act as the anode of the electrochemical cell. Cathodic protection systems are most commonly used to protect steel, water or fuel pipelines and storage tanks, steel pier piles, ships, offshore oil platforms and onshore oil well casings.
Cathodic protection can be, in some cases, an effective method of preventing stress corrosion cracking.

Cathodic protection (CP) is a technique to control the corrosion of a metal surface by making it work as a cathode of an electrochemical cell. This is achieved by placing in contact with the metal to be protected another more easily corroded metal to act as the anode of the electrochemical cell. Cathodic protection systems are most commonly used to protect steel, water or fuel pipelines and storage tanks, steel pier piles, ships, offshore oil platforms and onshore oil well casings.

Cathodic protection can be, in some cases, an effective method of preventing stress corrosion cracking.

Queens being Queens, of course- the device is installed next to a bus shelter and along a public sidewalk, contravening the operating instructions found in this pdf.

Possible recipient candidates for the devices to be working on are innumerable on this locus of piplines, sewers, highway bridges, and overpasses. Most likely its accumen is applied to the decaying fences of the cemetery itself, or to the concrete foundations of the roadway it adjoins. There is also the outside possibility that there is something forbidden– deep below Second Calvary- that has been imprisoned for a century or more in some vault of steel, which cannot be allowed egress to the gentle and ignorant surface of our modern Newtown Pentacle.

I will continue to hold onto it as a Catholic Protection Rectifier, and believe that the Jesuit Emergency Services Unit stands at the ready to defend Queens against those hidden threats of the supranormal night which only fools, guileless children, and the very old believe in. There is nothing on the roof but graffiti, I must remind myself.

As always, if something I’ve posted here is inaccurate, or you can expand on the topic, please post a comment or contact me here.


Written by Mitch Waxman

September 13, 2009 at 2:42 pm

Posted in newtown creek

a Grand Journey in DUGSBO

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g10_img_8033_bday.jpg by you.

Grand Street – North East – photo by Mitch Waxman

Gaze upon the coils of the dragon and despair.

Scuttling like some Kafkaesque cliche’– away from those tremulous revelations manifested just up the street in DUMABO– at the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge over the English Kills- around soiled patches of broken pavement and across a sandy substrate of glittering and powderized glass- between towering fencelines whose attendant armies of guardian birds voicing their mocking cry of “Ia, IA” or “tekeli-li” – the Grand Street Bridge is suddenly risen above the Newtown Creek’s miasmic banks- and your humble narrator falls unabashedly to the tainted ground before it. This is a standing stone, an ancient artifact, and like the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge– an urban talisman of those days when the Tiger came to the Newtown Pentacle.

from nyc.gov

Grand Street is a two-lane local City street in Queens and Kings Counties. Grand Street runs northeast and extends from the Brooklyn Queens Expressway in Brooklyn to Queens Boulevard in Queens. The road is known as Grand Street west of the bridge and Grand Avenue east of the bridge. The bridge is located between Gardner Avenue in Brooklyn and 47th Street in Queens. The Grand Street Bridge is a 69.2m long swing type bridge with a steel truss superstructure. The general appearance of the bridge remains the same as when it was opened in 1903. The bridge provides a channel with a horizontal clearance of 17.7m and a vertical clearance, in the closed position, of 3.0m at MHW and 4.6m at MLW. The bridge structure carries a two-lane two-way vehicular roadway with sidewalks on either side. The roadway width on the bridge is 6.0m and the sidewalks are 1.8m wide. The height restriction is 4.1m. The approach roadways are wider than the bridge roadway. For example, the width of Grand Avenue at the east approach to the bridge (near 47th Street) is 15.11m.
The first bridge on this site, opened in 1875, quickly became dilapidated due to improper maintenance. Its replacement, opened in 1890, was declared by the War Department in 1898 to be “an obstruction to navigation.” Following a thorough study, a plan was adopted in 1899 to improve the bridge and its approaches. The current bridge was opened on February 5, 1903 at a cost of $174,937.

Grand Street is a two-lane local City street in Queens and Kings Counties. Grand Street runs northeast and extends from the Brooklyn Queens Expressway in Brooklyn to Queens Boulevard in Queens. The road is known as Grand Street west of the bridge and Grand Avenue east of the bridge. The bridge is located between Gardner Avenue in Brooklyn and 47th Street in Queens. The Grand Street Bridge is a 69.2m long swing type bridge with a steel truss superstructure. The general appearance of the bridge remains the same as when it was opened in 1903. The bridge provides a channel with a horizontal clearance of 17.7m and a vertical clearance, in the closed position, of 3.0m at MHW and 4.6m at MLW. The bridge structure carries a two-lane two-way vehicular roadway with sidewalks on either side. The roadway width on the bridge is 6.0m and the sidewalks are 1.8m wide. The height restriction is 4.1m. The approach roadways are wider than the bridge roadway. For example, the width of Grand Avenue at the east approach to the bridge (near 47th Street) is 15.11m.

The first bridge on this site, opened in 1875, quickly became dilapidated due to improper maintenance. Its replacement, opened in 1890, was declared by the War Department in 1898 to be “an obstruction to navigation.” Following a thorough study, a plan was adopted in 1899 to improve the bridge and its approaches. The current bridge was opened on February 5, 1903 at a cost of $174,937.

from nyc.gov

dot

g10_img_8035_bday.jpg by you.

Grand Street – North East – photo by Mitch Waxman

This dragon is a hungry consumer of life, and a dangerous crossing for pedestrian, bicyclist, and vehicles. The approaches are wider than the roadbeds on the crossing, accidents are frequent occurrences, and I’ve known people that have been horrifically injured here. The walkway is roughly hewn.

A NYTimes.com article from 1895 discusses the necessity of building this bridge, at the urging of the War Dept. of the United States.

Grand Street Bridge, Brooklyn side by you.

Grand Street – North – photo by Mitch Waxman

This bridge and the area surrounding it have sucked its victims into that blackened and iridescent ichor lining the malodorous basins that these disease choked waters of the Newtown Creek swirl about in. Shudder at the fate of a priest, who ran afoul of those things which may lurk here even still.

“…victim was a tall, heavily built man, who, from papers found in his pockets, is supposed to be the Rev. Leonard Syczek, a Polish priest of the Roman Catholic Church.”- in this NYTimes.com article from 1896.

Grand Street Bridge, Brooklyn side by you.

Grand Street – North – photo by Mitch Waxman

Despite the unfriendly and barren environment, poisoned with an exotic blending of the chemist’s art, a surprising variety of tenacious life persists here. Many fish and marine invertebrates find themselves trapped in the Newtown Creek due to tidal actions on the East River (which adjoins the Creek at Hunter’s Point). The anoxic condition of the water drowns these unfortunate creatures, and the sewage born bacteria prospering into the waterway soon ruins the meat even for scavengers.

Indignities have been heaped upon the Newtown Creek for centuries. Check out this NYTimes.com article from 1896, which sounds eerily like something you might read in one of their modern articles on the place.

Grand Street Cat, Newtown Creek by you.

Grand Street Bridge – Span, down – photo by Mitch Waxman

Life here, unless it is very bold– or driven to desperation by hunger- remains well hidden in daylight. Testifying to the presence of nocturnal predation, early morning observations reveal bloody patches of fur and feather, and characteristic drag marks etched in the sooty dust that typifies the area. Skeletons of rats abound, collected in middens revealed only by roadwork or the effects of construction projects.

A particular family of cat, whose ancestry has painted them calico- with a predominately white coat, pink nose, and golden eyes- is often observed along the Newtown Creek. What advantage such partial albinism would lend- from a darwinian perspective- can only hint at unguessable implications about an unknowable subterrene world which exists in the untold layers of civilization that the ignorant modern city is built upon. There still may be vaults down there, cellars erected in the time of the Dutch decadence, which have been sealed up since before the Civil War- an eternal night, encased in a slithering and blind world of dripping stone arches.

from wikipedia

A swing bridge is a movable bridge that has as its primary structural support a vertical locating pin and support ring at or near to its center, about which the turning span can then pivot horizontally as shown in the animated illustration below. Small swing bridges as found over canals may be pivoted only at one end, opening as would a gate, but require substantial underground structure to support the pivot.

In its closed position, a swing bridge carrying a road over a river or canal, for example, allows road traffic to cross. When a water vessel needs to pass the bridge, road traffic is stopped (usually by traffic signals and barriers), and then motors rotate the bridge approximately 90 degrees horizontally about its pivot point.

Grand Street Cat, Newtown Creek by you.

Grand Street Bridge – Span, down – photo by Mitch Waxman

As is well known by those who have sought the esoteric lore of past generations, the race of Cats will be-and have always been- the guardians over Mankind upon this Earth. Their moonlight parades, which enforce and magnify the domination of mankind over those hordes of vermin which attempt the destruction and consumption of our every industry are dreamlike to some, and a nightmare to others.

Good arguments have been made that the agricultural revolution could not have happened without the presence of Cats living amongst mankind and their efforts at stemming the rodent and insect tide. No agricultural revolution, there’s no Kings– nor Queens. Thereby, Brooklyn and Queens ultimately owe their existence to Cats. It is my fervent hope that someday, in the lands and waterways of Newtown, that no man shall kill a Cat.

Some technical data on the Grand Street Bridge, from city-data.com

Structure Number: 224039,  Location: OVER NEWTOWN CREEK (Lat: 40.716500,  Lng: -73.922672),  Route carried “on” structure: City street ,  Year Built: 1901,  Year Reconstructed: 1973,  Status: Open,  Structure Length: 7.01m (23.00ft),  Average Daily Traffic: 9,154 (year 2005),  Truck Traffic: 6%,  Average Future Daily Traffic: 12,816 (year 2025),  Design Load: HS 20,  Features Intersected: NEWTOWN CREEK,  Facility Carried by Structure: GRAND STREET

Minimum Vertical Clearance: 4.41m (14.47ft),  Kilometerpoint: 0.000,  Lanes on structure: 2,  Owner: City or Municipal Highway Agency,  Approaching Roadway Width: 15.2m (49.9ft),  Navigation Control: Yes ( Vertical Clearance: 2.7m (8.9ft), Horizontal Clearance: 27.7m (90.9ft)),  Material/Design: Steel,  Design/Construction: Movable – Swing,  Number Of Spans In Main Unit: 2,  Length of Maximum Span: 34.4m (112.9ft),  Curb or Sidewalk Widths: Left: 1.7m (5.6ft),  Right: 1.7m (5.6ft),  Curb-To-Curb Width: 5.9m (19.4ft),  Out-to-Out Width: 6.8m (22.3ft)

Condition: Deck: Satisfactory,  Superstructure: Fair,  Substructure: Satisfactory,  Channel: Good,  Operating Rating: 37.2 metric tons,  Method Used To Determine Operating Rating: Load Factor (LF),  Inventory Rating: 25.4 metric tons,  Method Used To Determine Inventory Rating: Load Factor (LF),  Structural Evaluation: Somewhat better than minimum adequacy,  Deck Geometry: High priority of replacement,  Waterway Adequacy: Somewhat better than minimum adequacy,  Approach Roadway Alignment: Somewhat better than minimum adequacy,  Length Of Structure Improvement: 7.01m (23.00ft),  Designated Inspection Frequency: Every 24 months,  Critical Feature Inspection Frequency: Every 24 months,  Underwater Inspection Frequency: Every 60 months,  Inspection Date: September 2007,  Critical Feature Inspection Date: September 2007,  Underwater Inspection Date: September 2007,  Bridge Improvement Cost: $1,268,000,  Roadway Improvement Cost: $758,000,  Total Project Cost: $2,026,000 ( Estimate for 2007),  Deck Structure Type: Open Grating

Grand Street Bridge by you.

Grand Street Bridge- North East – photo by Mitch Waxman

From Brooklyn, looking to Queens. At some uncommented spot in the middle of the bridge, reality alters, and Grand Street transmogrifies into that ancient lane called Grand Avenue. Rolling through centuried Maspeth, and after an interruption at Queens Blvd., Grand Avenue becomes Broadway and continues on through ruby lipped Astoria on its way to the East River and past the horrors of Hallet’s Cove. This pathway has been in use, in one form or another, since the first Europeans- and they learned it from the Mespat.

I’ve mentioned this article before, but here’s another NYTimes.com article, from 1894, which talks about the consumption of even more human life here at the Grand Street Bridge- “…told a story which, if true, shows that that section of the city is a dangerous place at night and throws light on a number of mysterious things that have recently occurred in that vicinity.”

Milky water in Newtown Creek near Grand Avenue Bridge by you.

Grand Street Bridge – Span, down – photo by Mitch Waxman

from ANNUAL REPORT OF THB CHIEF OF ENGINEERS, UNITED STATES ARMY, TO THE SECRETARY OF WAR, FOR THE YEAR 1889 IN FOUR PARTS. PART I., courtesy google books.

The bed of the creek in the area worked over was variable below the plane of 18 feet mean low water; near the bar it was composed of sand, or sand and clay mixed, but as the bridge was approached it grew harder like hardpan, and had large bowlders embedded in it. The range of the tides in the creek is about 4£ feet, but the bed of the creek has no natural slope. The creek is the receptacle for all the refuse from the sewers, factories, and slaughter-houses of the east of Brooklyn; constant deposits are therefore forming in it, especially at the upper end, from these causes and from the caving in of the unprotected banks, which consist of marsh mud. To remedy this difficulty, annual dredging will be needed until the banks are protected by bulkheads throughout their whole length. The commerce of the creek is so large that this improvement should be pushed at least 3 mile.s up from the mouth as soon as possible, so that vessels drawing 20 to 23 feet may pass in and out of the creek with full cargoes at or near low water.

Grand Street Bridge by you.

Grand Street Bridge – Span, down – photo by Mitch Waxman

The building of this bridge was a Tammany project, check out this City Club book describing Mayor Low’s Administration in New York at Google Books.

On August 7th, 1900, Commissioner Shea signed a contract for the building of a draw bridge to replace an old bridge over Newtown Creek, at Grand Street, between Brooklyn and Queens. The engineers’ preliminary estimate of the cost was $173,379-90, and the final estimate $166,819.69. The old bridge was closed to traffic on August 27th, 1900, and the new bridge was to be completed by October 2ist, 1901, or in three hundred working days.

Although the traffic over Newtown Creek is very great, and the new bridge was urgently needed, the bridge was not opened to traffic until December 26th, 1902, or in four hundred and thirty-six working days, and was accepted by the city on February 5th, 1903. The total cost was 8172,323.43, including a bill for $5,503.74 for extra work, which was finally allowed in April, 1903. The contractor presented a bill for twice that amount, but Commissioner Lindenthal settled for the sum mentioned as the amount of the legitimate claim against the city.

The causes of this long delay under Mr. Shea’s administration are given in a detailed report handed in to Commissioner Lindenthal by Edward De Voe Tompkins on July 9th, 1902. From the time the bridge was started and until March roth, 1902, Mr. Tompkins was assistant engineer under the orders of a superior, also an assistant engineer. On that date Commissioner Lindenthal placed Mr. Tompkins in charge of the construction of the bridge. Mr. Tompkins gives the causes of delay as follows :—

On August 13th, 1900, the contractor was ordered to begin work. In September, 1900, the contractor removed “the old bridge in a very ” slow, objectionable and ridiculous way. When the engineer remonstrated he was answered with profanity. The contractor refused to ” furnish the engineer with necessary supplies, assistance, rowboat, etc. ” The contractor instead of devoting all his efforts to the construction ” of the bridge, used the site of the work for fitting out two derrick ‘ boats, and building two pile driver leaders and placing same on scows ” to be used on other contracts.

” The department’s original contract drawings of masonry were ” full of errors and practically worthless. This caused considerable ” delay and complications, the contractor being also to blame.”

Grand Street Bridge by you.

Grand Street Bridge- Span, South East – photo by Mitch Waxman

The bridge that the 1903 model replaced was built by the King Bridge Company.

from kingbridgeco.com (they have an image of an extinct Newtown Creek crossing, the Manhattan Avenue Bridge, by the by)

As early as 1874, the King Bridge Company was selected to build the Grand Street Bridge in Eastern Brooklyn across Newtown Creek. This was a drawbridge built for $18,200 and was in service for fifteen years but suffered from poor maintenance. The company bid on its replacement in 1888 but lost out to a local contractor. However, the company did display one of its New York moveable bridges in its catalogues of the 1880s. This was a 168-foot wrought iron high-truss swing bridge on Manhattan Avenue in the Greenport section of Brooklyn. This bridge also has long since disappeared.

Longview over the Newtown Creek by you.

Grand Street Bridge- Span, North – photo by Mitch Waxman

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” at Archive.org

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.

Grand Street Bridge by you.

Grand Street Bridge- Span, Bridge House – photo by Mitch Waxman

from bklyn-genealogy-info.com

1882- James McFADDEN, of 312 Maujer street, while working in REYNOLD’s coal yard, near Grand street bridge, was caught between a coal cart and some lumber yesterday afternoon, causing a lacerated wound of left thigh.  He was attended by Assistant Surgeon CURRAN and taken to St. Catharine’s Hospital.

also in 1882- Lack Of Humanity

A Coroner’s Jury Censures Street Car Passengers and Exonerates the Driver At an inquest held yesterday afternoon by Coroner PARKER on the body of Henry SCHUMACKER, the jury brought in the following verdict:

“We find that the said Henry SCHUMACKER came to his death on the 18th inst from shock due to fracture of the left leg caused by being run over by a car of the Grand Street & Newtown Railroad Company on Wednesday, November 16. And we, the jury, are of the opinion that he fell or was thrown out accidentally from his wagon and exonerate the driver of the car from all blame, but severely censure three passengers who were on the front platform of the car for lack of common humanity displayed on that occasion, and we recommend that lights be placed on Grand Street Bridge for the protection of the public.”

The “lack of humanity” was displayed by the passengers refusing to assist the injured man.

Newtown Creek from Grand St. Bridge by you.

Grand Street Bridge- Span, North, Newtown Creek – photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking north and west, the vast panorama of the western side of the Newtown Creek with its Manhattan Skyline backdrop. One of the few places near ground level that you can see this sort of vista.

Newtown Pentacle has visited this spot, briefly, in the past- in “That’s Just Grand“, much of who’s content is expanded upon in this post.

Grand Street Bridge by you.

Grand Street Bridge- Span, South, Newtown Creek – photo by Mitch Waxman

from a 2002 NYTimes.com article which discusses the history and future of this structure

“The city’s Department of Transportation has made what seems like a small request concerning this forsaken three-mile-long waterway separating Queens from Brooklyn. It wants to turn the Grand Street swing bridge, one of the dozen that cross the creek, into a fixed structure.”

Grand St. Bridge from Newtown Creek by you.

Grand Street Bridge- Span, South from Newtown Creek – photo by Mitch Waxman

check out an 1899 NYTimes.com article which describes the area that the Grand Street Bridge was built into as “White’s Dock”.

Grand Street Bridge by you.

Grand Street Bridge- Span, Up – photo by Mitch Waxman

from fultonhistory.com

Check out a scan of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle in 1899 for an editorial take on what was really going on with the whole “condemned by the war dept. thing”.

note:
If institutional memory was not absent from modern statecraft, we would say- the 1890’s- of course there was bad press about anything having to do with Brooklyn. The consolidated City was just 1 year old, Tammany was vying for control of not just NY State– but reaching for the Congress in Washington as well. There was a power struggle between Manhattan and Brooklyn for patronage and control over the limitless budget pooled from the taxes of Greater New York.

Grand Street Bridge by you.

Grand Street Bridge- Span, down, Newtown Creek – photo by Mitch Waxman

All about the site of the Grand Street Bridge, this crippled dragon found along the lamentable Newtown Creek, history seems to be tenanted by violent and deadly events. Newtownicans seem drawn to this stage during moments of crisis-

as is evidenced in this brutal NYTimes.com article from 1885.

And in this one from 1894.

Grand Street Bridge by you.

Grand Street Bridge- Span, Up – photo by Mitch Waxman

A little Newtown texture from HISTORY OF QUEENS COUNTY with illustrations, Portraits & Sketches of Prominent Families and Individuals. New York: W.W. Munsell & Co.; 1882. pp. 329-408. at bklyn-genealogy-info.com

The Alsop Family.- Among the early settlers of New town were the Alsop family. Writers on English sur names inform us that this family derives its name from the village of Alsop, in Derbyshire. Richard Alsop, the progenitor of the Newtown family, was induced to locate here by his uncle, Thomas Wandell. Mr. Wandell, according to reminiscences in the Alsop family, had been a major in Cromwell’s army; but, having some dispute with the “protector,” was obliged to flee for safety, first to Holland and thence to America. Some doubts of this may he entertained, for Mr. Wandell was living at Mespat Kills in 1648, which was prior to the execution of King Charles, and when Cromwell enjoyed but a subordinate command in the parliamentary army. Mr. Wandell married the widow of William Herrick, whose plantation on Newtown Creek he bought in 1659. This was originally patented to Richard Brutnell. To this he afterward added fifty acres for which Richard Colfax had obtained a patent in 1652. On this property, since composing the Alsop farm, Mr. Wandell resided.

He was one of the jury in 1665 for the trial of Ralph Hall and his wife for witchcraft (the only trial for witchery in this colony), and shared the honor of acquitting the accused. Some years later he visited England, and it is supposed that on his return he brought with him his sister’s son, Richard Alsop, whom he made his heir. Mr. Wandell died in 1691 and was buried on the hill occupied by the Alsop cemetery. Many years later the silver plate of his coffin was discovered in digging a new grave.

Grand Street Bridge, Queens side by you.

Grand Street Bridge- Span, West – photo by Mitch Waxman

A little more Newtown texture from HISTORY OF QUEENS COUNTY with illustrations, Portraits & Sketches of Prominent Families and Individuals. New York: W.W. Munsell & Co.; 1882. pp. 329-408. at bklyn-genealogy-info.com

Newtown in the winter of 1778 presented an unusually animated appearance. General Washington was expected to make an attack upon New York, and for the better preservation and safety of the shipping Sir Henry Clinton ordered all vessels not in the service of the government to be removed to Newtown Creek. A large number of British troops were also barracked here. There were the seventeenth regiment of light dragoons, the Maryland loyalists, the royal Highlanders, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Sterling, who had seen long and arduous service in America during the French and Indian war; the royal artillery, with their cannon and horses; and the thirty-third regiment, Lord Cornwallis. During this period the farmers were subjected to many severe burdens. They were required to furnish from year to year, for the use of the army, the greater portion of their hay, straw, rye, corn, oats and provisions, under pain of being imprisoned and having their crops confiscated. The commissary weighed or measured the produce, and then rendered payment according to the prices fixed by the king’s commissioners. If the seller demanded more it was at the risk of losing the whole. The private soldiers were billeted in the houses of the Whig families. The family was generally allowed one fireplace.

Robberies were frequent, and Newtown became a prey to depredation, alarm and cruelty. The civil courts were suspended, and martial law prevailed through seven long years. It was a happy day for Newtown when news arrived that Great Britain had virtually acknowledged our independence, and when her patriotic sons were permitted to return from a tedious exile.

Grand Street Bridge, Queens side by you.

Grand Street Bridge- Span, South – photo by Mitch Waxman

One last bit of Newtown texture from HISTORY OF QUEENS COUNTY with illustrations, Portraits & Sketches of Prominent Families and Individuals. New York: W.W. Munsell & Co.; 1882. pp. 329-408. at bklyn-genealogy-info.com

The fertility of the Newtown lands early attracted the attention of colonists, among the first of whom was Hans Hansen, who obtained a plantation of some 400 acres at the head of Newtown Creek. Richard Brutnell, a native of Bradford, England, was at the entrance of the creek, and on the opposite side was found the plantation of Tymen Jansen, who had been a ship carpenter in the employ of the West India Company. These were the only occupants at the time Mr. Doughty with his friends came to take possession of his grant. He made preparations to begin a settlement, and in less than a year a number of families were comfortably settled here. Mr. Doughty officiated as pastor, and affairs were tending prosperously when the breaking out of a war with the Indians gave a sudden and fatal check to the settlement. This war had been brought about upon a frivolous pretense of injuries received from the natives, resulting in a horrid butchery of some sleeping indians. Inflamed to the utmost, they with fire-brand and scalping-knife desolated the country around New Amsterdam, devoting property to destruction and the inhabitants to a cruel death. The savages broke in upon the settlement at Mespat and some of the settlers fell victims to their fury.

The remainder sought safety in flight, while the flame was applied to their dwellings, which with their contents were reduced to ashes. At length a peace was concluded. Thereupon some of the settlers returned to their ruined habitations. As a better day seemed dawning, several residents without the lines of the Mespat patent took occasion to secure government title for their lands. July 3d 1643 Burger Joris, Richard Brutnell, and Tymen Jansen took out their “ground briefs” or deeds.

Grand Street Bridge, Queens side by you.

Grand Street Bridge- Span, detail, Queens side – photo by Mitch Waxman

a 1908 map of the neighborhood from digitalgallery.nypl.org

Plate 16: [Bounded by Newton C... Digital ID: 1517373. New York Public Library

Grand Street Bridge, Queens side by you.

Grand Street Bridge- Span, North and West – photo by Mitch Waxman

from wikipedia

Grand Street is a street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York City, United States. The Grand Street (BMT Canarsie Line) subway station serves the corner of Grand Street and Bushwick Avenue. Crossing English Kills into Queens, Grand Street becomes Grand Avenue, continuing through Maspeth where it is a main shopping street, to Elmhurst. Its northern end is at Queens Boulevard. Broadway continues the thoroughfare north and west.

History

In the 19th century, before the construction of the Williamsburg Bridge, the Grand Street Ferry connected Grand Street, Brooklyn to Grand Street, Manhattan. The Grand Street Line was a streetcar line along the road.

As always, if something I’ve posted here is inaccurate, or you can expand on the topic, please post a comment or contact me here.

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 12, 2009 at 5:18 pm

Posted in newtown creek

Panoramic Notes

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Note: the scope of the Newtown Creek often obviates the need for some detail, and a broader perspective than the narrow lensing and shallow observations which are the usual totality of my capabilities. Experimenting with the photomerge feature in photoshop has allowed me to capture interesting horizontal images which are “stitched” together from multiple photographs. The results are not perfect, and have clear seams. Of course, the elaborate falsehoods I perpetrate for the advertising world, and the commensurate skills I’ve developed in “retouching”, would allow me to obscure such defects. I don’t want to, though.

Accordingly, I always specify these sorts of highly processed imagery as “a stitched panorama”, so as to inform the viewer of anomalous artifacts of the digital imaging process. Experience has taught me that stitching raw files as opposed to JPEG will create a smoother transition. The first image, of the Grand Street Bridge from onboard a moving ship, is all jpeg. The second, of the East Channel of the Newtown Creek, looking west toward Manhattan Skyline, Kosciuzcko Bridge, Calvary Cemetery- is all raw.

Also, I linked these 2 images to their GIANT incarnations- actual pixels. They’re big, but you can see some serious detail in them.

Grand St. Bridge from Newtown Creek by you.

Grand St. Bridge from Newtown Creek – photo by Mitch Waxman

Both of these are part of a post coming your way over the weekend, incidentally. Don’t mean to spoil it or anything, but as you may have guessed, DUGSBO cometh!!!

Newtown Creek from Grand St. Bridge by you.

Newtown Creek from Grand St. Bridge- photo by Mitch Waxman

I once met a guy at some party in Williamsburg, he was a “freak” at a modern Coney Island funhouse in the early 90’s. An urban primitive, if you remember that scene. He was an early “political bicycle guy”, and had suffered a tremendous injury on the Grand Street Bridge in the late 80’s. A truck had come barreling over the shaky structure, which vibrated so tremendously that it displaced the fellow from his bicycle, and then a second truck drove over… his head. Not 2 minutes after I took the west facing panorama directly above, a city bus sped over the bridge doing at least 60mph on the way to a nearby bus depot. The violent quaking and groaning of the bridge, as it expressed the kinetic blow it just suffered, terrified one of my frequent companions, who feared that she would be thrown into the uncaring waters of the Newtown Creek, to join with those unknowable things that may lurk down there.

The bicycle man in Williamsburg was an odd fellow, to be sure, and claimed that the unique scars and severe depression on the back of his head were the end result of the event, and testament to the skill of his doctors and surgical staff. Our Lady of the Pentacle and I referred to him as “the guy who looks like a thumb” afterwards. I currently know a fellow in Astoria who claims to have lost his south Boston accent and speech pattern in a car accident.

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 10, 2009 at 12:19 pm

Posted in newtown creek

DUMABO- Down under the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge Onramp

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Click here to see a Google Map of the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge

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Metropolitan Avenue Bridge – photo by Mitch Waxman

Once called the Masters’ Bridge, which carried cart and wagon across the 19th century’s Jamaica Turnpike, modernity knows this crossing over the English Kills as the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge.

It lurks on Metropolitan Avenue- between Vandervoort and Varick Avenues in East Williamsburg– Brooklyn. The bridge carries a two-way vehicular roadway with sidewalks, and is a double leaf bascule type bridge erected in 1931, rehabilitated and modernized in 1976, and it received several upgrades in 1992 and 2006.

from bklyn-genealogy-info.com

When the Williamsburgh and Jamaica Turnpike Road was built during 1813-14, Stephen B. and Samuel MASTERS’ operated the Turnpike. under a lease for about twenty years, the toll gate stood near their mill and bridge. MASTERS’ Bridge is replaced by the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge on the old site. When the Brooklyn and Newtown Turnpike Road was built, the toll gate on the Jamaica Road was moved a little further east, to the point where the two roads crossed, Metropolitan and Flushing Avenues at East Williamsburgh in Queens County. The toll gate on the Brooklyn and Newtown Turnpike stood at the same period, about 1857, at Flushing and Knickerbocker Avenues.
Along Newtown Creek, at the junction of Metropolitan Avenue and Grand Street, was a white sandy beach, no building nearby but three boathouses. One of these was occupied by; Captain JACKSON, whose daughter was an expert swimmer, another by old Captain JAKE.
Lafayettes, eels & shedder crabs, were plentiful here and black mussels, used for bait could be picked up in any quantity.

from nyc.gov

Metropolitan Avenue Bridge Over English Kills
Metropolitan Avenue is a two-way local City street in Kings and Queens Counties. The number of lanes varies from two to four along the entire length of Metropolitan Avenue, which runs east-west and extends from River Street in the Southside section of Brooklyn to Jamaica Avenue in Queens. The bridge, the only one over English Kills, carries both Metropolitan Avenue and Grand Street. The bridge is situated between Vandervoort and Varick Avenues in the East Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. The Metropolitan Avenue Bridge is a double leaf bascule bridge with a span of 33.8 m. The general appearance of the bridge has been significantly changed since it was opened in 1931. The bridge provides a channel with a horizontal clearance of 26.2 m and a vertical clearance, in the closed position, of 3.0 m at MHW and 4.6 m at MLW. The bridge structure carries a four-lane two-way vehicular roadway with sidewalks on either side. The roadway width is 16.2 m and the sidewalks are 1.8 m. There are no height restrictions on the bridge.
After the City acquired Metropolitan Avenue from the Williamsburg and Jamaica Turnpike Road Company in 1872, the existing bridge was replaced by a swing bridge, which was also used by the Broadway Ferry and Metropolitan Avenue Railroad Company. Growth in the area made the bridge inadequate by the early 20th century. The current bridge was built in 1931. Modifications since then have included upgrading the mechanical and electrical systems and the replacement of deck, bridge rail, and fenders. The stringers were replaced and new stiffeners added in 1992.

Metropolitan Avenue Bridge Over English Kills

Metropolitan Avenue is a two-way local City street in Kings and Queens Counties. The number of lanes varies from two to four along the entire length of Metropolitan Avenue, which runs east-west and extends from River Street in the Southside section of Brooklyn to Jamaica Avenue in Queens. The bridge, the only one over English Kills, carries both Metropolitan Avenue and Grand Street. The bridge is situated between Vandervoort and Varick Avenues in the East Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. The Metropolitan Avenue Bridge is a double leaf bascule bridge with a span of 33.8 m. The general appearance of the bridge has been significantly changed since it was opened in 1931. The bridge provides a channel with a horizontal clearance of 26.2 m and a vertical clearance, in the closed position, of 3.0 m at MHW and 4.6 m at MLW. The bridge structure carries a four-lane two-way vehicular roadway with sidewalks on either side. The roadway width is 16.2 m and the sidewalks are 1.8 m. There are no height restrictions on the bridge.

After the City acquired Metropolitan Avenue from the Williamsburg and Jamaica Turnpike Road Company in 1872, the existing bridge was replaced by a swing bridge, which was also used by the Broadway Ferry and Metropolitan Avenue Railroad Company. Growth in the area made the bridge inadequate by the early 20th century. The current bridge was built in 1931. Modifications since then have included upgrading the mechanical and electrical systems and the replacement of deck, bridge rail, and fenders. The stringers were replaced and new stiffeners added in 1992.

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Metropolitan Avenue Bridge Gears – photo by Mitch Waxman

It is, ultimately, the olfactory senses which will allow you to locate this structure amidst the industrial tangle that surrounds the English Kills. The heart of darkness, those waters which stand stagnant here return an oxygenation rate near or at zero, and can measure up to 10 degrees (celsius) higher in temperature than atmospheric conditions would predict. It is close to the bitter ending of the Newtown Creek watershed, the 3.4 mile mark, and only gelatinous horrors extend beyond the bridge- as English Kills winds into the wildest parts of legend haunted and anciently decadent Dutch Brooklyn.

from Brooklyn Eagle, April 30, 1885, courtesy junipercivic.com

Of the 600,000 residents of Brooklyn whose happy lot it is to live south of the little shallow basin that once was known as Bushwick Creek it is not an extravagant estimate to say that quite 85 percent of them have an indifferent idea of the all but putrescent stream, navigable and the center of important industrial interests, which bounds the northern limits of the city – a stream often mentioned in the Eagle under the name of Newtown Creek. There was a time, and that within the recollection of men of middle age, when this creek, the waters of which are today poisoned with the overflow of the waste which comes from the great chemical and other works that line its bank, was the home of fish of diverse forms and flavors. It was the resort of those who delighted in placatorial recreations and rarely were those who cast their lines in its pure waters disappointed of a goodly catch. It had peculiar attractions in this respect. While the creek for nearly three miles inland was a sort of paradise for fish of the ocean kind, above that point the brooks were inhabited by freshwater creatures, a tradition being held by many of the oldest inhabitants that trout of orthodox size and weight once sported in the cool pools that were formed by the outflowings of the springs near Tarquand’s school house. Now, nor for the past two decades, not an inhabitant of the deep is there to be found in it from source to estuary.

from nyc.gov

2-24029-0

Borough:

Brooklyn

Type:

Bascule

Telephone:

(718) 388-0008

Location:

Varick/Vandervoort

Waterway:

English Kill

Miles from Mouth:

3.4

Channels:

1

Used by:

Hwy

Length:

440′

Max. Span:

111

Roadways:

1 – 53′ 0″

Sidewalks:

2 – 5′ 8″

Construction Cost:

$634,634.86

Land Cost:

Free

Total Cost:

$634,634.86

Date Opened:

Mar. 27, 1933

Openings:

1988

1989

1990

1991

1992

1993

1994

1995

1996

1997

1998

Vessel Openings

756

694

351

301

356

225

310

272

407

423

448

Test Openings

38

82

160

72

154

215

141

131

96

72

140

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Metropolitan Avenue Bridge Gears – photo by Mitch Waxman

Like the mighty Greenpoint Avenue (or J.J. Byrne Memorial Bridge) drawbridge before it, the titan gears of the bridge reveal themselves to the intrepid photographer when a hidden bascule mechanism is triggered by the manned post and the crossing blossoms open. Redoubtable, the tireless operators of the Newtown Creek bridges are always at the ready to allow a ship egress to the navigable extants of this fabled waterway that are the ruins of an untold and forgotten world. Once, there was more ship traffic in this place than on the Mississippi.

from New York Construction.com

The four-lane Metropolitan Avenue Bridge over the English Kills, an industrial waterway in Brooklyn’s East Williamsburg neighborhood, carries 36,000 cars and trucks daily. Meanwhile, maritime traffic on the waterway below calls for opening the span once a day on average, though during winter months, when ships laden with heating oil are steaming up and down the English Kills, the span opens multiple times each day. The existing 1931 span had replaced another bridge on the site dating to the 19th Century.

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Metropolitan Avenue Bridge – photo by Mitch Waxman

People live down along the shoreline here, men with sin pitted faces that wear disgusting expressions indicating unknowable implications. Pitiful, they seem happy, with conveniences such as BBQ’s and collections of flyblown consumer goods cast off by the other spheres of existential reality surrounding them. One can often observe flocks of the higher orders of the avian specie who have mistaken the waters of English Kills for some welcome harbor- a respite from their migratory journeys.

from The History of Long Island, from Its Discovery and Settlement to the Present … By Benjamin Franklin Thompson, via google books

…The eastern portion of the town was known to the natives by the name of Wandowenock, while the western was called Mispat, or Maspeth, the latter being probably the appellation applied to a family or tribe of Indians, residing about the head of the creek, now called English Kills…

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Metropolitan Avenue Bridge – photo by Mitch Waxman

Grafitti along the bulkheads of this place absolutely mystifies me. In this occluded and distant ward of the Newtown Pentacle, who will see the scrawled missives rendered at the risk of total immersion in those blackened and still depths with their clawing mud bottoms? The thought of such a baptismal submergence fills your humble narrator with an unspeakable dread at what might emerge from such a font.

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Metropolitan Avenue Bridge – photo by Mitch Waxman

What effect does this place have on those outcasts and pariahs who maintain their semi nomadic lifestyle along the waterway (including myself, I suppose)? According to the EPA, several of the chemicals in abundant supply here are not just carcinogenic– but possibly mutagenic.

In 1917, this was the second busiest crossing between Brooklyn and Queens, with 10,944,525 crossings. That’s according to the NYTimes

ret_g9_img_2097_xmasllic.jpg by you.

Metropolitan Avenue Bridge – photo by Mitch Waxman

An air of desolation hangs about the place, looking west. The colour is here in great patches, an irridescent shade of putrefaction which burns wet-hot thoughts into your mind if stared at for too long, and which calls you back to it- time and again. Once, this prime fishing territory and pristine exemplar of the aboriginal Long Island environment supported a vast woodland community, but all that remains is the weedy growth that stabs through winter shattered cement.

A discussion of the topographic and geologic qualities at Newtown Creek, its tributaries, and the logic governing both the height of the various bridges, and the according dredged depth of the soft bottom from google books

From the Annual report of the Secretary of War-‎ by United States. War Dept Volume 2, Part 1- 1893

…A revised estimate for the improvement was made in 1889 (Annual Report Chief of Engineers, 1889, Part I, p. 778), after the results obtained by the survey of January, 1889, bad been studied, and the cost was fixed at 8170,586.

In preparing the new project for the improvement it was kept in mind that the draft of vessels going above Vernon Avenue Bridge, where the most important wharves are located, was limited by the then available depth of water, and that many vessels had to be lightered at the bar to facilitate entrance at high tide, while those going out had to complete their cargoes after they reached the East Kiver. It was, therefore, thought best to provide for 21 feet from the entrance to Vernon Avenue Bridge, 18 feet to Central Oil Works, 15 feet to Queens County Oil Works, 12 feet to Nichols’s Chemical Works, and 10 feet to Metropolitan Avenue Bridge on both branches.

The bed of the creek below Veruon Avenue Bridge is variable in character below the plane of 18 feet, mean low water. Near the bar it is composed of sand or sand and clay mixed; but as the bridge is approached it g.’ows harder, like liardpan, and has large bowlders embedded in it. The creek has a very sluggish current, and where there are no bulkheads the deposits arising from the sewers and from the degradation of the soft and unstable banks cause obstructions to navigation, for which annual dredging is the only possible relief.

The river and harbor act of September 19,1890, appropriated $35,000 for continuing the improvement, and was applied throughout the main river, giving 21 feet at the entrance and 10 feet at the head of navigation. In the ” English Kills,” a northern branch of the river skirting Laurel Hill, a channel was made 700 feet long, 100 feet wide, and 10 feet deep, mean low water. The contract was closed August 24, 1891.

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Metropolitan Avenue Bridge – photo by Mitch Waxman

The tributary of the Newtown Creek which the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge crosses is called English Kills. Right next door to the Dutch Kills, and the Dutch town of Boswijk (Bushwick) this name speaks of a forgotten world of internecine European political warfare and New World land grabbing. Here’s how it came by that designation:

from The Eastern District of Brooklyn By Eugene L. Armbruster, via google books

BEYOND THE NEWTOWN CREEK

In the olden times the lands on both sides of Newtown Creek were most intimately connected. County lines were unknown, the creeks were dividing lines between the several plantations, for the reason that lands near a creek were taken up in preference to others, and the creeks were used in place of roads to transport the produce of the farms to the river, and thus it was made possible to reach the fort on Manhattan Island.

The territory along the Newtown Creek, as far as “Old Calvary Cemetery” and along the East River to a point about where the river is now crossed by the Queensboro bridge and following the line of the bridge past the plaza, was known as Dutch Kills. On the other side of Old Calvary was a settlement of men from New England and, therefore, named English Kills. The Dutch Kills and the English Kills, as well as the rest of the out-plantations along the East River, were settlements politically independent of each other and subject only to the Director-General and Council at Manhattan Island, but became some time later parts of the town of Newtown.

Here’s why it’s called English Kills, from bklyn-genealogy-info.com

HISTORY OF QUEENS COUNTY with illustrations, Portraits & Sketches of Prominent Families and Individuals.
New York: W.W. Munsell & Co.; 1882.

Captain Richard Betts, whose public services appear for fifty years on every page of Newtown’s history, came in 1648 to New England, but soon after to Newtown, where he acquired great influence. In the revolution of 1663 he bore a zealous part, and after the conquest of New Netherlands’ by the English was a member from Newtown of the provincial Assembly held at Hempstead in 1665. In 1678 he was commissioned high sheriff of “Yorkshire upon Long Island,” and he retained the position until 1681. He became a bitter opponent to Director Pieter Stuyvesant and the little town of Bushwick, which he had founded. Under leave from the governor the English settlers had planted their town, but were refused the usual patent, and in 1656 Richard Betts administered a severe blow to Stuyvesant by purchasing the land for himself and 55 associates, from the red men, at the rate of one shilling per acre. The total cost amounted to £68 16s. 4d., which, with the sum of £76 9s. paid to the sachems Pomwaukon and Rowerowestco, extinguished the Indian title to Newtown. For a long series of years Betts was a magistrate. During this time he was more than once a member of the high court of assize, then the supreme power in the province. He became an extensive landholder at the English Kills. His residence was here, in what is still known as “the old Betts house.”

It is further said that here within sight of his bedroom he dug his own grave, in his 100th year, and from the former to the latter he was carried in 1713. No headstone marks the grave, but its absence may be accounted for by the fact that his sons had become Quakers and abjured headstones. The old house which we may enter by lifting the wrought iron latch of heavy construction, worn by the hands of many generations; the polished flags around the old deep well, where the soldiers were wont to wash down their rations, are still as the British left them on their last march through Maspeth. This house is but one of several most ancient farm houses still carefully preserved for their antiquity, on the old Newtown road, between Calvary Cemetery and Maurice avenue. These venerable companions have witnessed many changes, and now enjoy a green old age, respected by the community in which they stand.

For more on the Betts family, click here.

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Metropolitan Avenue Bridge – photo by Mitch Waxman

Walking up Metropolitan Avenue, whose sidewalks are balustrated against the oncoming traffic, one sees the Bridge house- an uninspiring box clinging precipitously to the marshy shoreline. Heavy traffic is found on Metropolitan Avenue, and odd characters can be observed loping along in a characteristic New York “gangsta lean“. These men are area workers, vagrants, and neverdowells who can be seen lounging in crumbling doorways, around storefront churches or convenience shops, or seen congregating in tight circles down weed choked alleyways- which betray the characteristic aroma of… well, I did say weed choked. I’ve never had a negative encounter down here, but a sense of being out of one’s element does emerge.

from walknyc.org

The Metropolitan Avenue Bridge is in East Williamsburg and carries substantial bicycle commuter traffic, mostly of people living in the neighborhood going to and from work, but also of this writer (from home in Park Slope to work in College Point). This has merging and diverging traffic (Metropolitan Avenue and Grand Street) at either end and rough pavement at the east end. There is ample room for a bicycle lane in both directions. This and repaving the approaches, especially at the east end, is a worthwhile project for T.A.

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Metropolitan Avenue Bridge – photo by Mitch Waxman

The water quality here is awful, in my observation. Stagnant and debased, even the aeration project based across the bridge, with its massive techology and modern scientific approaches, can only alleviate the surface of the pollution problems here, at the English Kills.

The City of New York has plans for this area. Check out page 29 of this PDF

DEP proposes to construct a 9 million gallon CSO storage facility to improve water quality by reducing the CSO discharged into the English Kills during rain storms when the CSO exceeds the capacity of the combined sewers. When this occurs, the CSO would be bypassed to the storage facility.  At the end of the rain event the CSO would flow by gravity or be pumped back to the sewer system to be conveyed to the Newtown Creek Water Pollution Control Plant (WPCP) for treatment.  This system was recommended by the Newtown Creek Water Quality Facility Planning Project (WQFP), a study that was part of the Citywide Combined Sewer Overflow abatement program.

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Metropolitan Avenue Bridge – photo by Mitch Waxman

The aeration project is in its second phase. The third and fourth are the most important- and most expensive. The ultimate villain of the Newtown Creek is New York City. The sewer system, a byzantine and somewhat archaic collection of pipes and brick lined tunnels, drains directly into the estuarine water. Since the natural tributaries which once fed fresh water and caused “flow” were cemented over by the burgeoning metropolii surrounding it, the only “flow” received in this river of tears is runoff wastewater and raw sewage.

In 2006, the firm of Edwards and Kelcey won an award for completing their work early, here in Newtown…

Best of 2006 Award of Merit in the Bridge Category – Presented by New York Construction Magazine to Edwards and Kelcey for design services rendered in the rehabilitation of the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge over the English Kills in Brooklyn, NY. The Award recognizes that the $41 million project was completed a year ahead of the anticipated completion date despite the fact that the rehabilitation work was performed on a working bascule bridge carrying 36,000 cars and trucks daily.

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Metropolitan Avenue Bridge – photo by Mitch Waxman

Our Lady of the Pentacle, in her infinite sadness, has heard me designate the following as “The Hundred Year Plan”. For more than a century, the logical course of action for “fixing” the Newtown Creek has been articulated in the form of the “Flushing Canal” or alternately “Flushing Tunnel”. By connecting the Newtown Creek to Flushing Bay via terraforming and aquascaping, a “Flow” would be established (and then combined with sediment dredging)- and the tidal actions of East River and Flushing Bay would sweep it clean. The combined waterway –  a grand canal- would offer Queens and Brooklyn a vastly altered and exponentially richer central corridor- neighborhoods which are currently isolated, squalid, and typified by neglect and decay.

This is the theory, and the prevailing solution to the issues surrounding the watershed favored by those hierophantic experts consulted for advice and guidance by this Newtown Pentacle.

from hydroqual.com

A slideshow presentation detailing the plan for aeration (manifested in the surrounding photos) of the English Kills, dating from 2003, can be found here.

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Metropolitan Avenue Bridge – photo by Mitch Waxman

The City of New York has further plans for this area. Check out page 30 of this PDF

DEP is proposing to construct two Air Blower Buildings for in-stream Aeration Facilities along the East Branch of English Kills and Dutch Kills.  The Aeration Facilities were recommended by the Newtown Creek WQFP project to improve water quality in the Upper English Kills by increasing the dissolved oxygen concentration of the bottom waters.  The project will include installation of a diffuser along the bottom of the East Branch of English Kills and Dutch Kills.  Blowers housed in the buildings along the shoreline will supply air to the diffuser system.

g10_img_8018_bday.jpg by you.

Metropolitan Avenue Bridge – photo by Mitch Waxman

But, as always, things at Newtown Creek stay the same.

Check out this view of English Kills from 1934, courtesy of NY Public Library

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Metropolitan Avenue Bridge – photo by Mitch Waxman

Industries will come and go, and great populations will spring up to service them. The work will go, and the communities will wither.

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Metropolitan Avenue Bridge – photo by Mitch Waxman

Politicians will arise and attempt to appease those who stay behind. Bread and circuses, but the grand scale and endless possibilities of earlier days will remain just out of reach.

g10_img_8008_bday.jpg by you.

Metropolitan Avenue Bridge – photo by Mitch Waxman

Just beyond the west side of the bridge, the bulkheads lead back to the Newtown Creek proper, a larger waterway and industrial complex of which English Kills is but a tributary.

Newtown Creek cruise (retouch) by you.

Metropolitan Avenue Bridge – photo by Mitch Waxman

Here you can see the “Black Mayonnaise”- a toxic combination of raw sewage, petroleum, and coal tar bubbling to the surface from subaqueous sediments- disturbed by the spinning of a ships propellors.

ret_g9_img_0064.jpg by you.

Newtown Creek Bulkheads – photo by Mitch Waxman

Head west, back along the English Kills, and you’ll be back at the Newtown Creek, quite near the former Mussel Island.

from epa.gov

Newtown Creek is a part of the New York – New Jersey Harbor Estuary that forms the northernmost border between the New York City boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens. In the mid 1800s, the area adjacent to the 3.8 mile Newtown Creek was one of the busiest hubs of industrial activity in New York City.  More than 50 refineries were located along its banks, including oil refineries, petrochemical plants, fertilizer and glue factories, sawmills, and lumber and coal yards.  The creek was crowded with commercial vessels, including large boats bringing in raw materials and fuel and taking out oil, chemicals and metals.  In addition to the industrial pollution that resulted from all of this activity, the city began dumping raw sewage directly into the water in 1856.  During World War II, the creek was one of the busiest ports in the nation. Currently, factories and facilities still operate along the creek. Various contaminated sites along the creek have contributed to the contamination at Newtown Creek.  Today, as a result of its industrial history, including countless spills, Newtown Creek is one of the nation’s most polluted waterways.

Various sediment and surface water samples have been taken along the creek. Pesticides, metals, PCBs, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are potentially harmful contaminants that can easily evaporate into the air, have been detected at the creek.

In the early 1990s, New York State declared that Newtown Creek was not meeting water quality standards under the Clean Water Act.  Since then, a number of government sponsored cleanups of the creek have taken place. The New York City Department of Environmental Protection has sampled sediment and surface water at a number of locations along the creek since 1980.  In 2009, EPA will further sample the sediment throughout the length of Newtown Creek and its tributaries.  The samples will be analyzed for a wide range of industrial contaminants.  EPA will use the data collected to define the nature of the environmental problems associated with Newtown Creek as a whole.

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 9, 2009 at 2:05 pm

Weird Synchronicity

with 5 comments

As it turns out, one of the interesting places in LIC that I was preparing a post about has experienced one of those massive conflagrations that seem to have afflicted relict properties all around the Newtown Creek for much of its history. I just uploaded, literally last night, a bunch of photos of 50-09 27th street- which burned down while the photos were in transit. The news reports are listing it as 50-10 27th street, but the address on its door is 50-09 .

I’ve mentioned this place before. 

in a post on Dutch Kills

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.

And, its at the eastern end of the “Empty Corridor

pan_img_7435_36_trav.jpg by you.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

g10_img_7426_trav.jpg by you.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

g10_img_7431_trav.jpg by you.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

g10_img_7438_trav.jpg by you.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Via Queenscrap

From Fox 5:

[buildingfire.JPG]

A massive fire is burning in a two-story warehouse in Long Island City, Queens.

The flames broke out at around 6 a.m. at 50-10 27th Street and 50th Avenue.

Giant plumes of smoke from the blaze are covering the western side of the Long Island Expressway just before the Queens Midtown Tunnel.

Expect delays of at least 25 minutes on the Expressway.

NY Traffic Authority Ines Rosales recommends drivers in the area take he 59th Street Bridge or get off on the Queens Boulevard and take the Queens Borough Bridge.

There are no reports of injuries.

From Fox 5:
A massive fire is burning in a two-story warehouse in Long Island City, Queens.
The flames broke out at around 6 a.m. at 50-10 27th Street and 50th Avenue.
Giant plumes of smoke from the blaze are covering the western side of the Long Island Expressway just before the Queens Midtown Tunnel.
Expect delays of at least 25 minutes on the Expressway.
NY Traffic Authority Ines Rosales recommends drivers in the area take he 59th Street Bridge or get off on the Queens Boulevard and take the Queens Borough Bridge.
There are no reports of injuries.

and from ny1.com

A three-alarm fire in Long Island City was brought under control just after 9 this morning, but not until after it caused major congestion on the Long Island Expressway.

The fire broke out just before 6 o’clock inside an empty warehouse at 50th Avenue and 27th Street, just below the LIE.

The smoke reduced visibility on the roadway and briefly forced its closure.

Fire officials say the heat from the fire was intense, forcing firefighters to fight the flames from the outside of the building.

“We originally sent people in, but it was deemed unsafe, too much fire and a whole building that had been vacant,” said FDNY Deputy Chief Bob Maynes. “So we were worried about the safety of our firefighters.”

About 150 firefighters were needed to bring the fire under control.

The flames completely destroyed the facade of the building and took off most of the roof.

Three firefighters were treated for minor injuries.

Fire marshals have begun their investigation into the cause of the fire.

g10_img_7430_trav.jpg by you.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

and here it is in January of 2009

Abandoned mill by you.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 8, 2009 at 11:36 am

Posted in newtown creek

Cruelty

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Just a short one today. Still burnt out from the weekend’s tug boat races. Check out this video from tugster. I’ve got at least two major posts cooking right now.

IMG_3350_projectfirebox.jpg by you.

Project Firebox, 3350 – photo by Mitch Waxman

I realize and fully aspire to understand the harried mind of the metropolitan vehicular operator, but often wonder, how does one manage to ignore a 2 meter tall shiny red box until its too late?

The devastation endured by these silent sentinels is but one of the striking dichotomies one encounters when walking the shadows of concrete shrouded and legend haunted Newtown. To the benefit of this heterogeneous collection of guardian devices, which can raise titan armies of Fire and Police Departments at the touch of a button, their abuse must be remarked upon. We, as a community, must find some way to train drivers to notice the near presence of – a 6 foot tall gleaming metallic object with reflective surfaces. Calculation of its relative proximity to their vehicles would surely follow suit.

This is Project Firebox.

IMG_8778_projectfirebox.jpg by you.

Project Firebox, 8778 – photo by Mitch Waxman

This was on Hunters Point Avenue, opposite a mattress factory outlet store. This I understood. Simple kinetics, an impact, and subsidence. Fine.

from wikipedia

Alarm Boxes: The second most common method is by means of F.D.N.Y. alarm boxes in the street and in certain public buildings such as schools and hospitals as well as highways, bridges, etc. These consist of the following primarily two types. The first is mechanical boxes, also commonly called pull-boxes or telegraph boxes in which a spring-wound mechanism alternately opens and closes an electrical circuit thereby rendering a coded number linked to the specific location of the box. Until the advent of the STARFIRE Computer-Assisted Dispatch System (CAD), dispatchers had to physically count the taps from mechanical boxes when they were received in the central offices. Today, a “Box Alarm Readout System” (B.A.R.S.) display handles that aspect of the job. The second type is the “Emergency Reporting System” (E.R.S.) boxes that are equipped with buttons to notify either FDNY or NYPD, allowing either department’s dispatcher to have direct voice communication with a reporting party. E.R.S. boxes began to replace mechanical boxes in many areas of the City beginning in the 1970s.

IMG_6368_projectfirebox.jpg by you.

Project Firebox, 6368 – photo by Mitch Waxman

Down near Newtown Creek, this abandoned car was resting on this firebox for nearly a year, but this is a deserted little cul de sac near a hundred year old train station and the site of a long vanished bridge.

A pretty nice history of FDNY alarm boxes at google books

IMG_4477.jpg by you.

Project Firebox, 4477 – photo by Mitch Waxman

Where Astoria ends, and Dutch Kills begins, near Northern Blvd. Notice that it’s bent OUT, against the traffic.

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 8, 2009 at 12:42 am

Posted in newtown creek

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