The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

ruthless conquest

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Terrible in its grandeur, the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant dominates the landscape around Greenpoint’s border with Long Island City. The Nature Walk which skirts part of its shoreline with Newtown Creek affords rare and untrammeled access to the industrial waterway, and provides an interesting vantage point to the traveling photographer.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

All sorts of artistic flourishes adorn the Nature Walk, one of which is pictured above that purports to show the primeval Newtown Creek and the vast meanderings of it’s course. The bottom of the frame represents the East River, and the coiling shape to the left is Dutch Kills. Note that the original course of the waterway was far reaching, and extended far beyond the modern bulkheads. In olden times, this area was referred to as “waste lands” while in modern times we call such territory “coastal wet lands”.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Still under construction, the section of Whale Creek hidden from view is where the sludge handling docks will be. One can expect the enormous sludge tank at the East River on Commercial Street to be demolished when these are done, and opportunities to photograph the City’s fleet of Sludge Boats up close and personal are sure to abound.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Without a hint of irony, this section of the Nature Walk is called the Scent Garden, and it is well stocked with (often indigenous) aromatic plantings. It extends back a few hundred yards, and seems to be the spot where workers at the plant go to on breaks as evinced by cigarette butts and garbage pails full of fast food packaging. Interesting spot, but not so much visually.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Across the Newtown Creek on the Queens side is the “big show”. The mouth of Dutch Kills is occluded by a non functioning swing bridge and a static truss bridge. I’ve been told that should the swing bridge need to be opened, it is accomplished by using Tow Trucks of the sort used for heavy vehicles which winch stout steel cables temporarily attached to the structure. Your humble narrator hasn’t observed this himself, so it is hearsay- albeit from a quite reliable source.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Newtown Creek Dock, once the Night Soil and Offal Dock and later the LIRR Manure dock, is currently under a century long lease to SimsMetal. A global player in the recycling trade, Sims is contracted by the DSNY to receive several of the materials they collect for processing and disposal. They shred paper and plastic, shatter glass, and sunder metal.

I can sit and watch this operation go for hours at a time.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I would be keen to actually visit Sims, but I’ve been told that this is another one of the VERY dangerous places to be on Newtown Creek. That giant pile of metal that is being sorted used to be automobiles, and the tiny toy dump trucks in the background are actually oversized wreckers. Enormous machines moving at industrial speed, with vast tonnages of metal being shredded? Not a place for a civilian, or so I’m told.



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