The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Circumnavigation 2

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Onboard the Circle Line, as it passed the Lower Manhattan Financial District, I spotted a couple of interesting things. The Meagan Ann tugboat was pulling a barge of shredded autos, which were reduced to their basic components at an industrial location found along that canalized exemplar of municipal neglect called the Newtown Creek, just up the river.

Here’s a shot of that Newtown Creek auto shredding operation which I took last year:

– photo by Mitch Waxman

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Meagan Ann is a twin-engine, 2,250 HP coastal towing tug, built in 1975 and rebuilt in 1988, approximately 81 feet long and formerly known as the Scorpius. It is owned and operated by Donjon Marine towing, Inc.


Since its incorporation in 1966, Donjon Marine has established and continues to seek long-term client relationships in a world where limited business resources demand a constant balancing of expenditures. Beginning with its foundation in the New York area as a pioneer in marine salvages services, Donjon has grown to become a leader in both conventional and environmental dredging.  Our areas of expertise also include recycling, land and marine demolition, pollution control and remediation, heavy lift transport, marine transportation and landfill remediation/site management.  Donjon and its affiliates maintain offices, assets and personnel throughout the Northeast, with operations spanning the globe.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Also witnessed by your humble narrator were regular comings and goings of Helicopter flights from the East River Piers found alongside the Financial District. It’s a Eurocopter AS-350B-2 Ecureuil, based at the West 30th street Heliport and operated by Liberty Helicoptors.


The largest helicopter sightseeing and charter service in the Northeast. Liberty Helicopters is currently the only authorized helicopter sightseeing company in New York City. We began in the charter business on April 22, 1986 and added sightseeing tours of New York City originating from the VIP heliport on September 6th, 1990. At that time, Liberty had begun an aggressive plan selling in both the domestic and international markets. Using our strong customer base afforded us the opportunity to open a second location at the downtown Manhattan heliport in 1995. Liberty Helicopters was not only the first company to operate sightseeing tours from this multi-million dollar facility, but also the first to offer our customers the convenience of two Manhattan locations. On May 1, 2004, we opened a third heliport at the Paulus Hook Pier located in the newly developed area of the Colgate section of Jersey City, N.J. In addition to our “once in a lifetime” helicopter tours, this facility operates both commuter and sightseeing ferry services, making it a very accessible facility to Manhattan.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Of course, once we reached the grandest structure in the entire megalopolis (if you consider New York City to be composed of individual parts as opposed to being one gigantic system of transit, power, and satellite cities that stretches for hundreds of miles in every direction) your humble narrator forgot all about Sludge boats, Tugs, and aircraft. I’m always amazed at the scale and classical proportions of the Brooklyn Bridge.

from wikipedia

The Brooklyn Bridge is one of the oldest suspension bridges in the United States. Completed in 1883, it connects the New York City boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn by spanning the East River. At 5,989 feet (1825 m),  it was the longest suspension bridge in the world from its opening until 1903, and the first steel-wire suspension bridge.

Originally referred to as the New York and Brooklyn Bridge, it was dubbed the Brooklyn Bridge in an 1867 letter to the editor of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, and formally so named by the city government in 1915. Since its opening, it has become an iconic part of the New York skyline. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1964.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

If it hasn’t been recommended to you yet, by me or others, I have to sing the praises of “The Great Bridge by David McCullough” which details the design and construction of the Brooklyn Bridge as well as providing a real “slice of life” about 19th century New York City. My preference for audiobooks is satisfied by the version available at apple’s iTunes store, and you could do worse things with your hard earned money than pick up the print edition at amazon.

from wikipedia

Born and raised in Pittsburgh, McCullough attended Yale University, earning a degree in English literature. His first book, The Johnstown Flood, was published in 1968; he has since written seven more on topics such as Harry S. Truman, John Adams, and the Brooklyn Bridge. McCullough has also narrated multiple documentaries, as well as the 2003 film Seabiscuit; he also hosted American Experience for twelve years. Two of McCullough’s books, Truman and John Adams, have been adapted into a TV film and mini-series, respectively, by HBO. McCullough’s next work, about Americans in Paris between the 1830s to the 1930s, is due out in 2010.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I don’t remember who the quote is attributed to, but the Ken Burns PBS documentary “Brooklyn Bridge” embedded a notion into me a while back that “all of modern heroic New York began with the building of the Brooklyn Bridge”. I tend to agree with this maxim.


After sixty years of political, financial and technical discussions (including a 6 lane tunnel proposal in the 1830’s), John Roebling’s plan was approved, the New York Bridge Company was formed and, in 1869, construction of the bridge finally began.

The bridge was built over 14 years in the face of enormous difficulties. Roebling died as a result of an accident at the outset; a fire in the Brooklyn Caisson smoldered for weeks; Roebling’s son, Washington, who took over as chief engineer, suffered a crippling attack of the bends during the construction of the Manhattan Caisson, and continued to direct operations, sending messages to the site by his wife, Emily. After the towers were built, a cable parted from its anchorage killing two people; there was fraud perpetrated by the cable contractor.

In the end, John Roebling’s prediction that the promenade above the deck will be “of incalculable value in a crowded commercial city” was justified, together with his perhaps most noted statement, claiming that “the great towers…will be ranked as national monuments. …As a work of art, and a successful specimen of advanced bridge engineering, this structure will forever testify to the energy, enterprise, and wealth of that community which shall secure its erection.”

On May 24, 1883, with schools and businesses closed, the Brooklyn Bridge, also referred to as the “Great East River Bridge”, was opened. Scores of people attended this spectacular ribbon cutting event. Over 100 years later, its renowned beauty & stature is still admired by many New Yorkers & tourists alike.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shot above is actually from last year (2009), but gives a good sense of the intricate series of roads and onramps that allow Manhattan traffic egress to the bridge.


  • Although he was physically able to leave his apartment, Washington Roebling refused to attend the opening celebration honoring his remarkable achievement.
  • The bridge opened to the public on May 24, 1883, at 2:00 p.m. A total of 150,300 people crossed the bridge on opening day. Each person was charged one cent to cross.
  • The bridge opened to vehicles on May 24, 1883, at 5:00 p.m. A total of 1,800 vehicles crossed on the first day. Vehicles were charged five cents to cross.
  • Today, the Brooklyn Bridge is the second busiest bridge in New York City. One hundred forty-four thousand vehicles cross the bridge every day.

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